AMY Northwest Middle Schoolyard

OptOutsidePhoto credit: Trust for Public Land staff

In the Northwest Philadelphia neighborhood of Roxborough, students at AMY Northwest Middle School have been working with The Trust for Public Land to design their new schoolyard. The .89 acre schoolyard is a barren, uneven expanse of asphalt that is partially used as a parking lot by teachers and community members. Recognizing the opportunity a schoolyard transformation offered students, teachers, and neighbors, Principal Jodan Floyd was excited for the work to begin. Floyd, 2018 recipient of the Lindback Distinguished Principal Award, selected 27 students from grades 6 - 8 to be part of the participatory design process that will form a vibrant, green play and learning space at the school.

The participatory design students at AMY Northwest had a unique opportunity to develop science, technology, engineering, arts, and math skills through studying and designing the schoolyard. With lessons focusing on Geographic Information Systems (GIS), students took mapping activities from the schoolyard to the computer lab and learned how data-driven decision support tools guide architects and city planners. Through computer modeling, they were able to try many different features for the schoolyard, seeing in real time how their choices had a compounding effect on other elements of their concepts. The design students also surveyed the wider school community and residents in the neighborhood to create designs to transform the barren lot. For the 300 AMY Northwest students and over 7,000 residents who live within a 10-minute walk, they agree that they want a green, active, safe outdoor space.

Since the students at AMY Northwest commute to school from "park poor" neighborhoods across Philadelphia, this project gives us a unique opportunity to bring the school and neighborhood communities together. The students recently presented the final concept designs to the community and we are awaiting the community's input to put the finishing touches on the final design. So far, the students' playground design includes an obstacle course, a turf field with a running track, a basketball court, and an outdoor gathering space.

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Since 1972, The Trust for Public Land has protected more than 3.3 million acres and completed more than 5,400 park and conservation projects.