SPHS Greening Master Plan

South Philly High School

Greening Master Plan

Inspired by the success of their first formal partnership and foray into greening the community, a student-led vegetable garden, LoMo and SPHS decided to think about the school’s campus in a comprehensive manner. Instead of greening the one square block, 5.5 acre, campus through independent, piecemeal projects, why not create a comprehensive master plan that would transform the entire campus from the rooftop to the parking lot!


The SPHS campus is an informal community hub and undeniable community pillar. LoMo and SPHS want to enhance the space by creating innovative outdoor educational opportunities, providing fresh food access and functional green space, and addressing stormwater management and urban sustainability. To get this idea off the ground, LoMo launched a crowd-funding campaign, through the Projexity site, to raise the funds to hire a landscape architecture firm to design the plan and continue to fund a project coordinator to engage students and neighbors in the process.


Thanks to the tireless efforts of the SPHS staff, SPHS Alumni Association, students, LoMo, and the generousity of people throughout Philadelphia (and beyond!), were surpassed our goal and raised over $27,000! Over the next few months, 60+ community members and 100+ students and staff contributed to Roofmeadow’s planning process.

green plan

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design meeting 3

60+ community and staff members participated in design brainstorms sharing their wildest ideas for SPHS!

Ideas included: Koi pond, amphitheater, playground, solar panels, rooftop farm, green roofs, rooftop event space, medicinal garden, exercise path, meditation garden, porous pavement, rain gardens, outdoor classroom, fence removal, sports fields, bicycle parking, skate park, and Broad Street greening.

Ideas were selected using the following criteria: community support, feasibility,  and funding.


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Biology and ESOL students help Roofmeadow conduct the official site assessment and survey, wielding tape measures to map out every drain pipe, curb, sidewalk and street tree.

MOVING FORWARD: Grant-Writing and Curriculum Integration

Engineering: Engineering CTE (Career Technical Education) classes collaborated with Roofmeadow to calculate the amount of stormwater that will be diverted when the ‘Greening’ Master Plan is fully implemented. This information is useful for urban greening and sustainability grants, many of which focus on stormwater management. Charlie Miller and Tim Resler, Roofeadow PE and civil engineer respectively, first taught the students about stormwater management through the context of the ‘Greening’ Master Plan and then dove into the mathematics. Students attended the 2013 Greenbuild International Expo and visited the Cira Green Roof construction (both trips were made possible by Delaware Valley Green Building Council).

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Biology: Biology and English For Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) Biology students broke ground on the first improvement, a native species garden. Students visited the Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education and Morris Arboretum in preparation and went to work on their space, digging out weeds and planting transplants. The garden includes a pathway for visitors and includes species that will attract beneficial insects and birds. This garden has also been used for lessons with local day care and head start students.

SPHS Native Garden Rendering

Special Education: Life skills students continue to engage in the existing vegetable gardens by growing food, harvesting produce, and selling to teachers. During the planning process, students practiced social skills by traveling around the school personally inviting teachers to participate in the planning process and providing an overview of the project.

Culinary Arts: Culinary CTE students continue to maintain the existing vegetable gardens by building beds, growing food, harvesting produce, and developing and cooking farm-to-table meals. Local chefs have guest lectured classes on the process of developing recipes around fresh produce.

Outreach: Stanley St Louis, involved through ESOL biology, and Abdul Muallam, involved through Culinary Arts and ESOL biology, presented the ‘Greening’ Master Plan at the Delaware Valley Green Building Council’s ‘Green Your School’ conference in January 2014. Project coordinator Molly Devinney was a featured panelist at DVGBC’s Sustainability Symposium in March 2014 on the “From Pre-K to Higher Ed: Healthy, Green Schools in the Delaware Valley” panel.


Now that there is a polished plan and rendering, LoMo and SPHS have begun applying for grants and planning future fundraising campaigns to help this plan become a reality. The plan is split into phases, to make it easier to fund and quicker to build. Here is a breakdown of the funding plan for Phase 1:

Stormwater infrastructure (rain gardens, porous pavement) SMIP grant Selected!
Site amenities (benches, trashcans, bike racks) Community fundraising Planning
Enhancing existing lawn area (outdoor classroom, gardens, pathway) Community fundraising & grants Planning

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Q. How much will it cost to fully implement the plan?

A: The total budget is approximately $886,000.

Q:  How does LoMo and SPHS intend to pay for it?

A: LoMo and SPHS have applied the Phila Water Department’s SMIP grant, and are currently pursuing other grants and fundraising options.

Q: When will the plan be fully constructed?

A: The ground-level construction will be completed when phase 1 funding is complete. The rooftop construction will follow.

Q: How can I help?

A: We need experienced, committed grant writers willing to work pro-bono!

Q: What exactly are the proposed renovations?

A: Here is a before-and-after. Click here for a rendering that includes a key.

GR2.1_Rendering baseGMP

To learn more about what students are currently doing for the project, view our Facebook photo album  or check out the student-made SPHS Gardens.

This project would not be possible without our successful projexity fundraiser campaign, but we would also like to acknowledge the many funders and supporters of our existing garden programs. Without the success of SPHS Gardens, we could not have undertaken such an ambitious project!

South Philadelphia High School Alumni Association


Philly STAKE

Whole Kids Foundation

Bank of America


Pennsylvania Horticultural Society (City Harvest)

Delaware Valley Green Building Council

Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education

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