A blossoming vision for South Philly High School

What would it take to bring neighborhood greening, curriculum opportunities and fresh produce to Philadelphia’s crumbling school system? South Philadelphia High School may have an answer. This morning the high school, in partnership with South Philly’s Lower Moyamensing Civic Association (LoMo), launched a crowd funding campaign to raise more than $26,000 for the development of a campus-wide “Greening” Master Plan and to fund a garden educator position. The plan will lay the groundwork for a rooftop farm and greening improvements that aim to convert the school’s 5.5-acre urban campus into a sustainability poster child. 

In August 2012, LoMo president Kim Massare pitched the ambitious greening initiative to Otis Hackney, principal at South Philly High, and Roofmeadow, a Philadelphia-based design and engineering firm. Together with the school’s garden educator Molly Devinney, the team quickly crafted a strategy for turning the lofty vision into reality. The key? Partnering with a new online platform called Projexity, which uses crowd funding to raise money for neighborhood improvement projects. The goal of Projexity is to provide “a new and better way for anyone – from moms to mayors – to initiate and manage neighborhood improvement projects,” explains Marisa Bernstein, Projexity co-founder and a University of Pennsylvania alumnus.

South Philly High’s vision for its two-acre roof (with agricultural plots, outdoor classrooms and solar panels) and ground-scape (with rain gardens, porous pavement, expanded vegetable gardens and an arboretum) would yield endless curriculum opportunities and a source of fresh ingredients for the school’s dining hall and culinary program. On Projexity’s website, Devinney explains the team’s goal is to “demonstrate to other schools and communities that being a steward of the environment and addressing sustainability issues can create aesthetically-pleasing, interactive, and practical spaces for the entire community.”  

To learn more about the project’s phased approach and donate to the cause, visit South Philly High’s Projexcity page

LAUREN MANDEL is a project manager and rooftop agriculture specialist at Roofmeadow.  She is a contributing writer for Urban Farm and Grid magazines, and authored the first full-length book about rooftop food production.  EAT UP | the inside scoop on rooftop agriculture (New Society Publishers, 2013) is available for pre-order through amazon.com. Visit Lauren’s rooftop agriculture blog at eatupag.wordpress.com.