A Meadow Grows at an Urban Elementary School

Conservation // September 11, 2017

At the John B. Kelly Elementary School, a new meadow helps reduce stormwater runoff and helps develop the next generation of watershed stewards.

The Kelly Green Project, an outgrowth of the Hansberry Garden and Nature Center in Southwest Germantown, is dedicated to renewing the large, worn, and rarely-used school yard around the John B. Kelly Elementary School for the students and the community.

After developing a healthy school garden and garden club in the back of the school, the Kelly Green Project organized conversations that led to removing the sod from the neglected front yard and developing a “pocket meadow” to attract “birds, butterflies, and kids.” Audubon PA, the Tookany/Tacony-Frankford Watershed Partnership, and FOW were all represented at the discussion on-site, which resulted in neighbors agreeing it could be a great community asset.

On June 1, 2016, 1,400 plugs were delivered and five classes of Kelly students planted them with the support of volunteers and the Land Health Institute. With no water source on the site, a hose was installed at a neighbor’s house across the street from the school, and water was hauled over when necessary to soak the new start-up plants during long dry spells!

Within days of its installation, Audubon began hosting lessons with classes about the meadow’s value, the importance of watersheds (Kelly sits on two!), and restoring urban spaces for wildlife. Over the summer FOW supported the project with the installation of beautiful rustic fences. Neighbors stopped by on “Meadow Minding” evenings, and evening walkers stopped to take selfies once the brown-eyed Susans and other native plants began blooming.

This school year, Audubon continued to use the meadow as an educational space with 5th grade classes, most recently through a service day for students who planted more native pollinators and took over the bird feeding plan. There are now plans to engage younger students in its care.

A fund-raising effort, supported in part by FOW, raised revenue for two new educational signs that were dedicated at a community clean-up day in April. Kelly students proudly read the information on the new sign to the large crowd on hand. The Kelly Meadow is quickly becoming an appreciated part of the neighborhood and a valued educational tool at the school.

By Dennis Barnebey, Hansberry Garden and Nature Center

Dennis Barnebey is Vice President, Acting Secretary, and Kelly Green Project Lead at the Hansberry Garden and Nature Center. Learn more at kellygreenproject.org or by emailing kellygreenproject@hansberrygarden.org. Follow the project on Facebook at KellyGreenProject.