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George W. Nebinger School
The George W. Nebinger K-8 Elementary School is located in an urban Philadelphia neighborhood. The school population includes 330 students ranging in age from 5-14 and comprised of diverse races, ethnicities and languages spoken. A low income demographic, 93.7% of students are economically disadvantaged. The racial breakdown is as follows: 54.7% African American; 21.7% Latino; 9.4% White; 7.9% Asian; and 5.6% Other. English language learners (Cambodian, Vietnamese, Chinese, Spanish) comprise 11.2% percent of the student body and 18.7% are students with disabilities. Due to a nearby school closure, the Nebinger catchmen area stretches deeper into the Asian immigrant residential area in addition to a large low income housing unit, and an area at the early stages of gentrification. The school celebrates diversity and is engaging families to come together for cultural food, dance and music activities. The new Principal is Cambodian and is successfully reaching out to families of this expanding demographic in the school. Having had an empty blacktop schoolyard until this past summer, recent grants from the Recyclebank, American Heart Association, PCCY, and Water Department have resulted in a vegetable garden, rain garden, storm-water drainage system, environmentally themed outdoor mosaic, and an outdoor classroom.
In the spring of 2014, access to the schoolyard will be expanded beyond weekday student use. It will become open to the community for access after school, weekends and throughout the summer. This is exciting as the students and families within this urban neighborhood have limited access to any green space and play areas. Two environmental opportunities present itself: one being student and family recycling and the second is outdoor health/fitness. While we have made great strides in environmental awareness and stewardship through our environmental science curriculum and grant projects, we have important needs to meet as we open the schoolyard for all to enjoy. First is our need to purchase and install two recycling receptacles within the schoolyard. Students and families will be tending the vegetable garden, able to walk through and sit by the rain garden, and enjoy a coffee, a picnic lunch or a snack in the schoolyard. The community and student use of the yard will create an increase in trash, much of which is recyclable. It is critically important to capture this opportunity for recycling efforts. Students will engage in a variety of activities to increase their awareness of the purposes and need for recycling and conduct activities to raise awareness among their families and local community. They will serve as the “Recycle Watchdogs” of their schoolyard. Second is our need to purchase basic outdoor play equipment to enable children to physically benefit from the outdoor environment. Student health and fitness is critical as we are also battling the effects of poor nutrition and limited exercise. Recognizing the limitations of the blacktop play surface, we will utilize funds to purchase portable play equipment. It is hard to believe but this school does not even have funds for balls and simple play equipment to engage students in outdoor teambuilding and exercise activities. But due to the ongoing severe fiscal constraints of the Philadelphia Public Schools, we even have to raise money for the most basic of school supplies, such as paper and pencils, which families struggle to provide for their children.