Over thirty participants attended the community design charrette for the Memphis Street Academy schoolyard and developed several ideas for the future use of the site. Part of a larger EPA-funded project, the purpose of the event was to gather local input about the reuse of the Memphis Street Academy schoolyard in the Port Richmond neighborhood in Philadelphia. With partakers including school staff and faculty, community residents and representatives from organizations across the City, the groups generated unique designs for the largely underutilized schoolyard. In addition, a children’s brainstorming session was held prior to learn about the students’ ideas for the schoolyard.
Each group envisioned a distinct future for the schoolyard, but there was significant overlap in many of the design elements and wishes for the site. Most groups commented on the lack of green space, and suggested the addition of both color and shading to improve the usability of the yard. In addition, further recreational amenities and opportunities were suggested, including a basketball court with spectator seating. Students at the brainstorming session recommended fruit trees and vegetable gardens as a way to beautify the space.
Following the event, the Project Team discussed both the designs from each group as well as the results from the voting activity. The team then developed a conceptual master plan based on these results. The overall concept for the Memphis Street Academy schoolyard is to green the space while providing ample educational and recreational opportunities for both the students and the community.
Integrating both educational and recreational components, the plan calls for an interactive path meandering around much of the courtyard to provide an active learning experience for the students. Weaving through a sensory garden, rain garden and several planting buffers, the path concludes at the outdoor classroom. While adding recreational components is stressed throughout the plan, there is also ample space reserved for free play. The plan also features the addition of significant green space: street trees lining the property, a green roof and several rain gardens. Incorporating the insight provided by the students, the plan suggests two vegetable gardens along the main entrance to the school.