Sustainability Club Offers Ideas for Schoolyard

By Jason Hachadorian

“We want a basketball court,” shouted a Memphis Street Academy student during a brainstorming session held at his school.

On Monday, February 23, 2015, members of Memphis Street Academy’s Sustainability Club developed visions for their schoolyard, offering ideas such as basketball courts, play areas, gardens, trees, and a green roof. Part of a visioning exercise focused on potential stormwater management projects and recreational facilities, the students discussed different ways to manage runoff on the school property, which is almost completely paved.

Led by Temple community partner Michaela Allwine, New Kensington CDC’s Block Programs Coordinator, the afternoon began with a demonstration on urban stormwater runoff using a neighborhood stormwater management model provided by the Climate and Urban Systems Partnership (CUSP). On the first attempt, water was poured over the model without any stormwater controls. Students noticed (and splashed) the many puddles and flooding that occurred. On the second attempt, members of the Sustainability Club placed sponges and miniature rain barrels throughout the model. When water was poured this time, students observed how the sponges and rain barrels absorbed the water and prevented the puddles and flooding.

After briefly discussing stormwater, runoff and sewer systems, the Club split into two groups to design their visions for the schoolyard on large maps. Using both markers and cutouts of potential projects, each group prepared a different plan for their ideal schoolyard. Popular ideas included benches for sitting, free-play areas, fruit trees (pear and apple, only!), vegetable and flower gardens, green roofs, rain barrels, and various playing facilities (both a basketball court and football field were proposed).

“After each group developed their plans, they presented their ideas to the other members. While each design was different, members of the Club agreed on some key issues facing the surrounding neighborhood, including trash accumulation”, reports Dr. Mahbubur Meenar, assistant director of Temple University’s Center for Sustainable Communities and the Principal Investigator of the EPA-funded Urban Waters Small Grant program.

The Sustainability Club’s ideas will be discussed during a design charrette to be held at Memphis Street Academy on March 26, 2015 from 6 to 9 pm. To RSVP, please email mallwine@nkcdc.org with your name, residential zip code, and organizational affiliation (if any).

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