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Henry C. Lea School

A West Philadelphia community group initiated this schoolyard project on behalf of a neighborhood elementary school. By providing support in an early phase of the design process, the Collaborative helped Lea to focus­ on one simple greening project that built significant momentum.
A visible symbol of change: The planting bed, installed by some 70 community volunteers, launched the transformation of the schoolyard while bringing community members together.
Leading with Community-Driven Change

The Collaborative awarded the West Philly Coalition for Neighborhood Schools (WPCNS) a design grant in 2012 to help green­ Lea’s asphalt schoolyard. WPCNS undertook the conceptual design phase in partnership with Lea’s Home and School Association (its PTA) as well as a local community development organizations The Enterprise Center and LISC Philadelphia.

“Once we got things off the ground, we realized how many untapped resources were available. People started to come out of the woodwork who felt personally involved. One community member even said, ‘I have been waiting for years for this to happen.’”


Julie Scott, WPCNS member, co-chair of Greening Lea

Once the conceptual design plan identified the best place for planting beds, the group was able to organize a workday to create a highly vis­ible planting bed that jump-started the change. The planting bed project generated such a groundswell of excitement among families and neighbors that it led directly to broader changes. Given its unique position in the West Philadelphia community, WPCNS was readily able to solicit community and financial support from those outside the school community, which was essential to implementing the rest of the conceptual plan.

The plan called for a rain garden, a small grove of shade trees, and a large area of soft, porous play surface, which were ultimately made possible by:

  • a Green Region Grant from the PECO energy company
  • a Stormwater Management Incentives Program (SMIP) grant from the Philadelphia Water Department.

This team also worked closely with the School District of Philadelphia to marshal resources, define construction responsibilities, and establish maintenance plans—forging a path for other schools in the district to follow.


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