Green schoolyards have gained international attention as an innovative way to enhance learning and play. Locally, the City of Philadelphia has embraced green schoolyards as a way to manage stormwater and create more open space for neighborhoods.The Collaborative’s first preliminary design projects for campus parks in the mid-2000s led to the success of Greening Greenfield— and inspired other school groups to pursue similar projects. Here’s a sampling of recent Collaborative green schoolyard projects:
Meredith Elementary School/ Queen Village Neighbors Association
Meredith’s chain link fence and concrete surfaces do not reflect its commitment to innovative education and the community. School and neighborhood leaders want a schoolyard that offers environmental education in a “backyard” setting and fosters community pride. A big feature of the conceptual design is a bioswale planted between the playground and parking lot—complete with a boardwalk that allows for natural play.
Powelton Village Civic Association/ Friends and Alumni of Powel School
The parents and alumni of Powel School want to engage students at every level—emotionally, socially, physically, and cognitively—while creating a more sustainable site. The Collaborative outlined a strategy for greening the schoolyard in phases, starting with habitat garden, vegetable garden, and outdoor classroom to make Powel School an even stronger neighborhood asset.
George W. Nebinger Elementary School/ Bella Vista Town Watch
“De-paving” part of Nebinger’s playground could create a green haven in a crowded neighborhood, providing an edible garden, a playground with a lawn and tumbling hill, a rain garden, and an outdoor classroom. The conceptual plan carves out a “secret garden” protected by a vegetative screen—a quiet area for everyone, including children with autism and other special needs, to play.Bache Martin Elementary School/ Fairmount CDC
A conceptual master plan connects the two buildings that make up the campus and adds green elements like flow-through planters and rain gardens that collect stormwater and enliven streets and sidewalks. A key element in transforming the campus will be a “shared street” with curb bumpouts, plantings, and a colorful crosswalk pattern.
John H. Taggart Elementary School/ Cambodian Association of Greater Philadelphia
A diverse elementary school with a large population of Southeast Asian students, Taggart School is focusing its efforts on a 25’ by 120’ enclosed play area for its pre-K to first grade students. Play spaces with safety surfacing and quieter areas shaded by trellises, linked by a walkway of porous paving, will create a greener place for Taggart’s youngest students to play and explore.
Connecting Cities—and People—to Nature Green schoolyards have a big role to play in building a more sustainable city. Volunteer and urban planner Nicole Hostettler summarized just why green schoolyards are so important to Philadelphia in our Nebinger Elementary School report:
Green City, Clean Waters, the city's stormwater master plan, eschews the conventional approach—building more and bigger underground catchment basins to manage stormwater— to focus on "green infrastructure" on the ground's surface that will allow water to soak in more slowly and naturally. The plan is the first of its kind nationally.
According to the plan, schools make up 2% of the impervious cover in combined sewer drainage areas, big portions of the city where green infrastructure matters the most. Schools can be redesigned to make an impact, the plan says, with, “an array of stormwater measures which can be implemented on school properties, such as rain gardens, green roofs, porous pavement, trees, rain barrels, and cisterns.
Green schoolyards can change minds too. In his book, Last Child in the Woods, Richard Louv popularized the term, “Nature Deficit Disorder.” As children spend less time outdoors, he argues, behavioral and health problems are on the rise. One solution is to utilize schoolyards to enrich childhood experiences with nature. And, as neighborhood anchors, school sites are uniquely positioned to connect adults with nature and sustainable lifestyles.
See all of our green schoolyards projects for public schools: Collaborative_green schoolyards_ projects
Many thanks to the volunteers who donated their time and talent to the green schoolyard projects featured here!
Meredith Elementary School Amy Yaskowski Charles Oropallo Terra Studio: Tim Kerner Neil Yersak Duffield Associates: Dan Meier Donald Logan
Powel School NAM Planning & Design, LLC: Nancy Minich, Melissa Boffa, Rachel Feigenbutz Nicole Keegan Jason Sandman Firmarchitecture: Carey Yonce, Rebecca Vierya Duffield Associates, Inc.: Tom Halliwell Owners Rep, Inc.: Jim Curry, Robert Green
Nebinger Elementary School Studio Gaia, LLC: Kimberlee Douglas, Alexandra Zahn Elwell Studio: Jason Elwell Nicole Hostettler Torcon, Inc.: Anthony Armento, Angela CirinoBache-Martin Elementary School OLIN: Richard Roark, Ben Lawrence, Brian McVeigh Meliora Environmental Design LLC: Michele Adams, Altje Hoekstra International Consultants, Inc.: Michael Funk Erin Roark Christine Milller Cruiess
Taggart Elementary School Birdsall Services Group: Gerald DeFelicis, Robert Toomer manifest AD: Jeb Bookman