Green Ribbon Schools Award Nominee:
Albert M. Greenfield Elementary School, School District of Philadelphia

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In 2006, Greenfield looked like a typical urban school.  Built in the 1970’s, the brick building was equipped with outdated mechanical equipment and the schoolyard was an asphalt parking lot.  To bring about a meaningful change, a dedicated group of parents, teachers and students initiated the “Greening Greenfield” project to transform the existing school into a healthy, sustainable place for students to learn and play.
The Greening Greenfield Committee established a set of rigorous goals:

(1) green the existing building and school yard;
(2) teach students to be environmental stewards;
(3) share the sustainable story with the community. 

The efforts at Greenfield have provided great results—both inside and outside of the school building.  As part of improvements to the physical plant, much of the old, outdated mechanical equipment has been replaced with new, energy efficient models and the school achieved 52% energy savings in the past year.  To increase building performance even more, Greenfield will transfer from an antiquated steam-powered heating system to natural gas heating in 2013.

Greenfield was pleased to be selected by Philadelphia Water Department as a pilot site for its “Green City, Green Waters” plan to use green storm water infrastructure as the primary approach to reduce the incidence and volume of Combined Sewer Overflows.  As part of this project, Greenfield partnered with the Community Design Collaborative, local professionals, and the school community to create a Master Plan that dramatically transformed the existing, impervious school yard into a green oasis. In 2009 and 2010, the first two phases of the Master Plan were installed, including state-of-the-art storm water management controls that capture and treat 97% of rainwater that falls onto the school yard. The installation involves pervious paving and two native plant rain gardens.

Other educational amenities installed on-site include a weather station, photovoltaic solar array, mural, outdoor classroom, and urban orchard garden. For an existing school in a high-density urban neighborhood, Greenfield truly maximized the opportunities on-site and serves as a model for other urban schools.

And, a key part of Greening Greenfield is to ensure students are engaged in every aspect of this work—and that it is integrated throughout the curriculum.  This occurs both inside and outside fo the building.   Outdoors, students learn about micro-climates, indigenous plants, rain water absorption, and non-point source pollution.  Native plant rain gardens, an urban orchid garden and the solar pv systems also provide hands-on learning opportunities for students.

Teachers at Greenfield have found new ways to incorporate sustainability and environmental science in the classroom—and every classroom has a designated period for science each day.  At every grade level, environment and ecology standards are introduced through on-site and offsite learning experiences.  For example, the rooftop solar installation includes a real-time photovoltaic display monitor which students utilize in the fifth grade course and students collect soil samples and catalogue native plants documenting the natural changes to the school gardens each year.

To instill the importance of environmental stewardship, Greenfield follows a very special tradition each Earth Day when all classes visit the Schuylkill River Trail and discuss the impacts of storm water management. To build upon this experience throughout the school year, Greenfield partners with the Fairmount Water Works Interpretative Center, a local non-profit that provides educational resources focused on healthy watersheds.
Additionally, Greenfield students will participate in the Energy Pilot Program with the Delaware Valley Green Building Council.  Students will undergo training to become energy auditors and will complete an energy audit of the school to identify inefficient practices and promote energy conservation.

To continue efforts to improve student health, the Greening Greenfield Committee has focused on healthy eating as an important component to this process. Greenfield partnered with The Philadelphia Orchard project to plant an urban orchard garden on-site. Students plant and tend to the garden and learn about different fruit offerings; Asian pears, figs, raspberries, persimmons and peaches. Greenfield also holds several healthy food events each year, such as International Food Day and Fresh Food Fairs. As students are exposed to new types of fresh fruits and vegetables, they are more likely to choose healthy options.

The final step in the Greening Greenfield process is to share their success story with the community. The Greening Greenfield Committee often speaks at community events about how they engaged the local community in the design of the Master Plan and how they maximized fundraising to achieve their goals.  The success of the Greening Greenfield project is a testament to the power of enlisting community support.  The Greening Greenfield Committee realized their goals by securing the necessary resources---through fundraisers, securing grants, and building local partnerships. For example, Greenfield’s photovoltaic installation was made possible through a benefit concert by the rock group, The Disco Biscuits. Greenfield raised the remainder of the funds through an e-cycle day, a silent auction, a student penny-drive, and sales of a student-designed Greening Greenfield t-shirt, and Mercury Solar, the photovoltaic system design/builder, generously donated the installation labor.

The Albert Greenfield School has been transformed through the partnerships created and their innovative strategies have yielded tremendous results.  Energy conservation, actively engaged students and staff, and a robust curriculum component demonstrate the commitment that Greenfield has made, and also reflect the benefits of creating a vision that includes student-led change and community collaboration.