WP > Green Futures > School Greenscapes

School Greenscapes

School ‘greenscapes’ transform barren asphalt and grass into stages for discovery. They bring nature to the city neighborhoods and provide vibrant environments for learning and imaginative play.
CW Plantings in the Raised Bed


Every student will have access to outdoor learning environments that integrate stormwater management, play areas for passive and active recreation, and community resources into green spaces.


Every school will have green space.


The District will increase its green schoolyards by five schools per year over 5 years.


Stormwater Management

The School District has constructed large scale green stormwater infrastructure projects at over thirty schools since 2010, including surface and subsurface infiltration basins, porous pavements, rain gardens, storage trenches, bio-retention swales, green roofs and porous play surfaces.   

Our Capital Programs Office has committed to constructing a minimum of five large scale green stormwater infrastructure projects per year .  The stormwater projects not only reduce the amount of water runoff from our properties, but help manage runoff from the surrounding neighborhood.  In addition, the District receives financial insentives through stormwater credits that appear on our monthly water utility bills.

Through a partnership with Philadelphia Water, and dedicated community members, Greenfield Elementary School was the first school in the District to design and construct a green schoolyard with a formal green stormwater infrastructure (GSI) system.  As part of a five-phase initiative called “Greening Greenfield” the schoolyard project was completed in 2010 and transformed the building and grounds of the school from a mixed-use asphalt play yard to a self-sustaining green space.

In 2013 Greenfield was nationaly recognised for these and other efforts and recieved the U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon School Award.  “Greening Greenfield” remains a core value of the school, its students, and the community.  Watch the video about how Greenfield is helping to make our city and the environment a better place.

In addition to stormwater management, school greenscapes are a place for student learning and community engagement.  William Cramp Elementary School partnered with The Trust for Public Land’s Parks for People-Philadelphia program to construct their green schoolyard, which was completed in May 2016.  Students played an important role throughout the project development and provided feedback at different parts of the design phase.  The design process began with 40 third- and fourth-graders surveying the existing schoolyard and polling fellow students on potential improvements, which included stormwater management and green infrastructure educational programs through Philadelphia Water. Previously a bare asphalt surface, the new schoolyard now includes play equipment, an artificial turf field, a running track, a handball wall, painted games, an outdoor classroom, a music area with xylophone and bongos, and plenty of shaded trees and greenery.

In addition to providing new play opportunities for students and the local community, the schoolyard also includes a science station which will allow the school to monitor meteorological data and air quality information. Bird-nesting boxes and other habitat improvements are equipped with nature cameras, allowing the school to keep track of wildlife in their urban green space. The garden habitat also captures rainwater, helping to meet the Philadelphia Water Department’s Green City, Clean Waters goals, creating a lush, green backdrop. There will be new learning opportunities for the school’s 540 students and the schoolyard will be open to the community after school hours. This will provide close access to a new public green space for more than 15,000 people who live within a 10-minute walk.

Smaller scale green spaces such as vegetable and butterfly gardens are also popping up all over the District.  The EM Stanton Elementary School’s gardening club created a school garden that is shared with the surrounding community members.  During the summer, this South Philadelphia community garden grows vegetables, fruits, herbs, and flowers including Roma tomatoes, yellow squash, Swiss chard, mini watermelons, basil, banana peppers, carrots, kale, zinnias, sunflowers, and more. 


Understanding the Urban Watershed Curriculum Guide

Infographic of Philadelphia's Urban Watershed provided by Fairmount Water Works

Understanding the Urban Watershed: A Curriculum Guide for the Classroom is a teaching tool and classroom resource developed by the Fairmount Water Works and supported in part by the Green Schools, Clean Waters Initiative of the Philadelphia Water Department.

The guide takes students through a fascinating and complex narrative with its twist and turns, describing the urban water system.  It takes integrated approach to learning using Philadelphia’s water story as the context.

Green Sheet Profiles

How green is your scene?  We want to hear from you!  Send a note to greenfutures@philasd.org and tell us what is happening at your school.  We will post it on the Green Sheet Profile for all schools to see!


Existing Green Stormwater Infrastructure

Existing Stormwater Systems

Just as we feel more comfortable in green spaces, so do our children. When they have that opportunity, you can see their energy and state of mind change.
-Dr. William Hite, Superintendent