Green vision for concrete schoolyard

Com­munity comes to­geth­er to cre­ate plan for Mem­ph­is Street Academy school­yard at design char­rette.

  • Lindsey McNeil, a seventh-grade teacher at Memphis Street Academy, presents the design created by Group B. MELISSA KOMAR / STAR PHOTO

  • Sixth-grade student Terri Hernandez leaves her mark on the possible redesign for the schoolyard. MELISSA KOMAR / STAR PHOTO

  • Arts and crafts: Participants of all ages used Post-it notes, colored pencils, scissors and Sharpie markers to create a vision for the future Memphis Street Academy schoolyard. MELISSA KOMAR / STAR PHOTO

  • Memphis Street Academy schoolyard, located at Ann and Memphis streets, in its current condition. MELISSA KOMAR / STAR PHOTO

School ap­peared to be in ses­sion last Thursday even­ing as com­munity mem­bers of all ages used maps, Post-it notes, scis­sors, Sharpie mark­ers and tape to en­vi­sion the fu­ture of the school­yard at Mem­ph­is Street Academy, 2950 Mem­ph­is St.

Four tables of about 30 Mem­ph­is Street Academy stu­dents and teach­ers and Port Rich­mond res­id­ents, led by Temple Uni­versity stu­dent fa­cil­it­at­ors, col­lab­or­ated on the re­design activ­ity, which fo­cused on in­cor­por­at­ing re­cre­ation­al space and green storm­wa­ter in­fra­struc­ture.

The meet­ing was held by Temple Uni­versity Cen­ter for Sus­tain­able Com­munit­ies, in part­ner­ship with New Kens­ing­ton Com­munity De­vel­op­ment Cor­por­a­tion. The pro­ject, which will cul­min­ate in a pro­fes­sion­ally de­signed con­cep­tu­al plan for the site, is be­ing fun­ded by a $60,000 U.S. En­vir­on­ment­al Pro­tec­tion Agency Urb­an Wa­ters Small Grant.

Oth­er sites that are be­ing ex­amined as part of the grant are Eu­genio Maria de Hos­tos Charter School, 6301 N. 2nd St., and va­cant lots at 6th and Dia­mond streets.

Lynn Man­darano, as­so­ci­ate pro­fess­or of Temple Uni­versity’s De­part­ment of Com­munity and Re­gion­al Plan­ning and re­search fel­low for Temple Uni­versity Cen­ter for Sus­tain­able Com­munit­ies, gave a brief present­a­tion about storm­wa­ter man­age­ment be­fore the group activ­ity com­menced.

Storm­wa­ter man­age­ment con­cepts and re­cre­ation­al ideas that could po­ten­tially be in­cluded in the plan for the school­yard were bas­ket­ball courts with por­ous pave­ment, tree trenches, a green roof, rain­wa­ter cisterns, storm­wa­ter bum­pouts, flower beds, ve­get­able gar­dens and a rain­wa­ter garden, ac­cord­ing to Man­darano.

Par­ti­cipants wrote down their in­di­vidu­al ideas for the pro­ject and then shared their vis­ions with one of four groups.

Lind­sey McNeil, a sev­enth-grade spe­cial edu­ca­tion teach­er at Mem­ph­is Street Academy, was the rep­res­ent­at­ive for Group B dur­ing the present­a­tions after the group activ­ity.

The four main themes for Group B were col­or­ful, green, in­vit­ing and re­cre­ation­al. The themes would be ap­plied to the re­design through gar­dens, more cov­er­age for stu­dents by the build­ing, a half-sized bas­ket­ball court, a rain garden, pic­nic tables, a mur­al on the school build­ing wall, and more trees and flowers.

“I loved [the activ­ity],” McNeil said. “I liked that there was a gath­er­ing of ideas from the com­munity and stu­dents. Hope­fully, we can in­clude a lot of the dif­fer­ent as­pects presen­ted. The kids need it and really de­serve it.”

The oth­er three groups presen­ted sim­il­ar designs, with Group C sug­gest­ing pos­sibly the most ec­cent­ric idea: adding a roof-top lazy river.

Mem­ph­is Street res­id­ent and Group C par­ti­cipant Mike Trombetta raised the ques­tion of wheth­er or not the school­yard would be ac­cess­ible to the pub­lic after the com­ple­tion of the pro­ject.

A defin­it­ive an­swer was not giv­en, but the school­yard is cur­rently locked be­fore and after school hours due to li­ab­il­ity is­sues.

Christine Borelli, chief ex­ec­ut­ive of­ficer of Mem­ph­is Street Academy, is ex­cited for the pos­it­ive im­pact a new school­yard will have on the stu­dents.

“I want it to be a place that’s good for the en­vir­on­ment,” Borelli said. “But hav­ing the kids par­ti­cip­ate in mak­ing the school­yard something that’s really their own is go­ing to bring a sense of pride to the school that the kids de­serve. I want kids to walk onto this cam­pus and feel like it’s in­vit­ing and a place that they own.”

Stu­dents from Mem­ph­is Street Academy’s Sus­tain­ab­il­ity Club had a sep­ar­ate meet­ing at the end of Feb­ru­ary with Mi­chaela All­wine, Temple Uni­versity com­munity part­ner and NK­CDC Block Pro­gram co­ordin­at­or.

The meet­ing fea­tured an in­ter­act­ive storm­wa­ter man­age­ment pro­gram; the stu­dents’ ob­ser­va­tions and feed­back were presen­ted at Thursday’s meet­ing and will be in­cor­por­ated in­to the con­cep­tu­al site plan.

Terri Hernan­dez, a sixth-grade stu­dent at Mem­ph­is Street Academy, was a par­ti­cipant in Group B at the design meet­ing.

“I thought the meet­ing was very cre­at­ive and I’m ex­cited to make our school cre­at­ive,” Hernan­dez said. “I want to see kids so­cial­iz­ing and play­ing and talk­ing in the school­yard. I want more trees and benches for hang-out areas.”

After the group activ­ity and present­a­tions, all par­ti­cipants com­pleted a sur­vey. Each par­ti­cipant was asked to vote for his or her fa­vor­ite design and list fa­vor­ite in­di­vidu­al ele­ments from each group’s design.

Mah­bubur Meen­ar, as­sist­ant dir­ect­or of Temple Uni­versity’s Cen­ter for Sus­tain­able Com­munit­ies, es­tim­ated that a site plan based on all four designs would be avail­able to the pub­lic in a couple of months. Vot­ing res­ults would be re­vealed once the plan was com­plete.

The grant does not cov­er the ac­tu­al con­struc­tion of the new school­yard; the Cen­ter for Sus­tain­able Com­munit­ies, NK­CDC and Mem­ph­is Street Academy would need to ap­ply for ad­di­tion­al grants for that pro­cess, ac­cord­ing to Meen­ar.

For up­dates about the re­design plan for Mem­ph­is Street Academy School­yard, vis­it phil­ly­greendesign.word­press.com/.

You can reach at mkomar@bsmphilly.com.

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