A WPC Employee at a Pittsburgh Public School

Pittsburgh Public Schools Students Get Closer to Nature

The grounds of all Pittsburgh Public Schools soon will be greener and more inviting, with help from the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy’s new School Grounds Greening Initiative. Thanks to a $1.5 million grant from the Grable Foundation, students and faculty alike will enjoy greener school grounds and will have more opportunities to interact with nature.

The project will add sustainable, low-maintenance greenery to all 66 Pittsburgh Public Schools over the next four years. WPC staff members will carry out the project in close collaboration with the Pittsburgh Public Schools' Chief Operations Office.

Features to be added to the school grounds include:
   - Quiet spaces with plants and seating for students and teachers
   - "Green" fences and walls enhanced with vegetation
   - Raised beds for school-initiated planting projects
   - Active play spaces with natural surfaces
   - Additional trees

“Studies show that nature and green spaces foster children’s intellectual, social, emotional and physical development, so this gift to Pittsburgh Public Schools represents an important investment in our children’s futures,” said Superintendent Mark Roosevelt.

Funding for the initiative was secured in November 2007 and planning work began immediately thereafter. WPC completed greening projects at 12 schools during 2008 and plans to complete approximately 18 projects annually from 2009 until 2011.

“WPC, together with various community partners, is improving the school experience for children and their families,” said Gregg Behr, executive director of the Grable Foundation, a local charity dedicated to improving the lives of children. Recent contributions to the Pittsburgh Public School System by the Grable Foundation include awards to The Pittsburgh Promise and the Fund for Excellence in Pittsburgh Public Schools.

According to recent studies, children who experience school grounds with natural areas are more physically active, exhibit higher creativity, and even show a reduction in discipline and classroom management problems. Proximity to natural areas also increases students’ ability to focus while reducing stress. Futhermore, connecting young people with nature may benefit the environment as many authorities believe that the window of opportunity to form positive attitudes about the natural environment happens during early and middle childhood – and requires frequent interaction with “nearby” nature.

“We are honored to play a role in improving students’ learning environments through the School Grounds Initiative, and we thank the Grable Foundation for making this project possible,” said Tom Saunders, President and CEO of the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy.

To learn more about the School Grounds Greening Initiative, visit our website.

 water, land, life  Western Pennsylvania Conservancy  |  Fallingwater