Now that we have the idea of a solar-powered, sensor-equipped sunflower that allows students to monitor plants in a rain garden, it’s time to think about where that sunflower will take root. Greenfield Elementary School in Center City has been a model of a “green school”: In 2009, the Philadelphia Water Department worked with the school’s parent group, the Philadelphia School District, the Community Design Collaborative and the EPA to transform an asphalt schoolyard/parking lot into an attractive, green playground (pictured above) that manages stormwater using rain gardens and porous play surfaces. Watch the video below for more detail:
A similar transformation is about to take place at Nebinger Elementary School in South Philadelphia (actually, Bella Vista—you can start a small war in Philly if you’re not careful about getting the neighborhood correct). This summer, construction begins at Nebinger to create a rain garden and porous play surface where asphalt used to be. The rendering below shows what the greened schoolyard might look like. The rendering below also shows what it might look like if a child with one foot were running—you see that guy in the background?
Schools are great locations for green infrastructure. Blacktop schoolyards tend to be large impervious spaces that normally contribute a large volume of stormwater to the sewer system. Schoolyard makeovers can revitalize play areas and introduce nature to the urban landscape. Having the students use technology to monitor their vegetation adds another layer of connectivity and offers even more opportunity for STEM education.