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Central High School
Located in North Philadelphia, Central High School is a second home to an incredibly diverse group of 2200 students, ages 13-18. As a college preparatory public magnet school, Central challenges students academically, artistically, and athletically to prepare for higher education, the demands of good citizenship, and future leadership. We leverage the perspectives and experiences of our incredible racially, ethnically, and socio-economically diverse student population to prepare students for futures in a heterogeneous world. Students travel from all over the city and form a unique community, running over 70 clubs, and organizing school wide events such as Earth Day. When you walk through the front doors, the focus, diversity, and creativity among students is apparent.
We plan to restore half (12) of the patio boxes this winter/spring in preparation for our Earth Day in conjunction with master gardeners from Penn State University and the Home and School Association. The boxes claimed by the environmental club and environmental classes are intended to be used as meadow, green roof, edible landscape, and vegetable production demonstrations. These boxes are the pilot versions of a longer-term plan being developed in partnership between students and master gardeners. We additionally intend to select one landscape problem on the lawn area of campus, and replace overgrown, invasives with carefully selected native plantings. Our many student clubs will be able to adopt a patio box to plant in a manner consistent with the club’s mission once the box has been remediated and prepared. As full partners in the process, students are empowered as they interact with master gardeners and parents to plan and prioritize all aspects of the project from generating a timeline, to making decisions about integrated pest management, dealing with trade-offs that arise, and selecting planting material. We intend to use the experience not just as a project this year, but as a long-term research opportunity as we monitor the plots for growth, biodiversity, and abiotic factors over the next decade. We hope to create a sustainable model for how a school can work with knowledgeable professionals in the community to increase the value of outdoor space. An initial planning meeting between the school and master gardeners has already taken place. In future meetings we will prioritize projects and begin work. Other parts of the project include modifications necessary for the future sustainable use of the space including shade and seating, structures to extend the growing season into cooler temperatures, as well as rainwater collection and storage. We intend to partner with out community through food production efforts, sending student-grown food home to members of the community both within the school and neighborhood. Further down the line we hope to propagate our most successful plantings in remaining patio boxes to give to other schools working on similar projects.