By: Sarina Shrestha
"Greenfield Elementary School” comprised the second half of our day trip. As I walked through the gates and into the school, the first thing that caught my attention was the playground. With the uncontrollable excitement of a small child I jumped at the sight of slides and dashed for them. As I went there I noticed that the ground was not made of asphalt; it had a rather spongy, porous texture. “The playground surface is made of rubber”, informed Lisa Armstrong, our host for the trip and one of the initiators of sustainability in the school. It was interesting to find out that since the rubber surface is porous it soaks excess water in, thereby controlling storm-water run-off.
Small, inexpensive, easy-to-maintain gardens lined the school compound, a subtle way of introducing greenery to the school environment. “That one is the vegetable garden, and it is looked after by the students”, said Lisa pointing towards a garden with a gigantic cherry tree. The school consults an horticultural adviser a few times a year for suggestions to improve and maintain the gardens. Apart from the student run vegetable garden there were two other gardens with plants indigenous to Philadelphia. I found this particularly interesting, for not only did this action contribute towards the maintenance of the history of this prestigious city, it simultaneously allows for the students to learn about this very history and attributes of the Philadelphia region through a medium other than the classroom. In order to prevent damaging plants due to the presence of the basketball court next to these gardens, the school built a small metal chain structure, which could also be used by the students for playing. “That was completely the students’ idea, not ours”, Lisa said, highlighting the involvement of students in the ongoing green movement across the school campus. The garden successfully embodies the concept of being green and sustainable by using no pesticides and by planting plants, which after they set in, require no watering.
After a tour around the school compound, we went to the back porch. “We want to use this space for an open classroom,” stated Lisa, showing the open space. Although they already have mounds in the school playground for teachers to bring their class outside, they want an actual outdoor class. Pointing towards the abandoned terrace, Lisa explained how they wanted to utilize it as green roof . However, due to lack of funding the project was suspended momentarily. This loss of the green roof was overshadowed by the news of the school using a certain proportion of solar energy. They have solar panels installed on the rooftop and the students can view the amount of energy produced through the computer in the hallway.