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Cook Wissahickon's Master Plan: A Commitment to Schoolyard Greening

Cook Wissahickon's 2013 Green Apple Day of Service

Students at Cook Wissahickon's Green Apple Day of Service Project in 2013.

Each year, schools and community groups worldwide participate in Green Apple Day of Service (GADOS). This year, on or around September 26th, projects in our region will engage students, teachers, companies, and communities around a shared goal of transforming schools into healthy, safe and productive environments. Last year, there were over 130 GADOS projects completed in the Delaware Valley.

Cook Wissahickon Elementary School, a K-8 school adjacent to the Wissahickon Valley Park, is a four-year participant of GADOS, planning a day of service each Fall. With the help of teachers and parents, the school plans events that engage not only the school community, but also their neighbors and outside stakeholders, like local businesses and community groups.

Cook Wissahickon utilizes GADOS as a tool to engage their school community each Fall around the next implementation stage of their Master Plan for schoolyard greening. About eight years ago, the Community Design Collaborative put together a planting and depaving plan for the school grounds. Jeanne Barrett Ortiz, Lisa Lobitz, Abbey Pelcyger, and other parents, teachers, students, and neighbors worked together to spearhead this initiative. Other stakeholders provided input during this process, including the local community group, the Wissahickon Interested Citizen's Association, was apart of the visioning of the future schoolyard. The process of implementing the Master Plan is not linear, but wholly dependent on grants, donations, and other funding sources.

Their first GADOS project, held in 2012, focused on energy use and included a full-scale energy audit, staff development, and activities for students and parents. In 2013, the day of service was centered on the newly built meadow that occupies the front portion of the school property. The importance of the meadow's ecosystem was emphasized, in addition to showing how it can be used as an educational tool, outdoor classroom, and habitat for local species. In 2014, the Welcome to Your Watershed project highlighted the impact stormwater runoff has on a watershed and how it can be mitigated by rebuilding natural habitats. 

Students from Cook Wissahickon participated in the 2013 Green Apple Day of Service where they learned about the importance of pervious surfaces.

Students from Cook Wissahickon participated in the 2013 Green Apple Day of Service where they learned about the importance of pervious surfaces.

On September 19th, 2015, Cook Wissahickon will tackle another part of their Master Plan as they work towards depaving their schoolyard and replanting with natives. Their project will help mitigate stormwater runoff and reduce the heat index in the surrounding area. 

From the beginning, the school approached the entirety of the project with a holistic understanding of the impact natural areas have on the community and our watershed. Cook Wissahickon stresses the importance of lessening their impact on the environment, particularly in regards to stormwater management. They seek to improve the health of their students, community, and the environment through their annual participation in GADOS. This year, we hope to see more schools from Philadelphia, our region, and all over the country take a hands-on approach towards improving their schools and the environment.

Register here to particiapte in Cook Wissahickon's Green Apple Day of Service!

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