The playground at Jenks Academy for the Arts and Sciences in Chestnut Hill - with its spacious sandbox and chunky wood structures - is a place of imagination, as Eden Kainer describes it
In a city of cracked asphalt schoolyards, Jenks' playground is a model of green architecture. But in the cash-starved Philadelphia School District, playground equipment and green fields are secondary to more urgent needs - such as replacing fire alarms, hiring nurses, buying books, and repairing decades-old buildings.
That is why six elementary schools in Northwest Philadelphia are taking on the job of greening schoolyards. The schools (Anna B. Day, Eleanor C. Emlen, Charles W. Henry, Henry H. Houston, Jenks Academy for the Arts and Sciences, and Anna L. Lingelbach) are all part of Mount Airy Schools Coalition, a branch of the large nonprofit Mount Airy U.S.A.
Last fall, the schools worked with Philadelphia nonprofits and community members to draft new design plans for playgrounds. And this fall, they will continue collaborating in the hope of raising funds through grant applications to begin smaller-scale renovations such as installing gardens and picnic tables.
The local efforts mirror initiatives in other large urban districts, such as Chicago and New York, where volunteers are raising funds independently of the school district, said Lois Brink, chief strategist of the Big SandBox, a city-based nonprofit that focuses on creating urban parks and green schoolyards.
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