WPC to Add Greenery to the Grounds of all Pittsburgh Public Schools

Thu, Feb 26th 2009, 10:57. Filed under News Releases.

Pittsburgh, Pa. - February 26, 2009 - Students of Pittsburgh Public Schools will enjoy greener school grounds and will have more opportunities to interact with nature through a new School Grounds Greening Initiative, to be implemented by the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy (WPC) through a $1.5 million grant from the Grable Foundation.

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 initiated 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.


About Pittsburgh Public Schools:
Pittsburgh is the second largest school district in the state of Pennsylvania, and the largest of 43 school districts in Allegheny County. The District serves approximately 28,000 students in Kindergarten through Grade 12 in 66 schools. In addition, Early Childhood programs serve three- and four-year-olds in 94 classrooms across the city.

Pittsburgh’s public school system is in the midst of a transformational plan called Excellence for All, initiated in 2006, that is aimed at improving student achievement at every level.

About the Grable Foundation:
The Grable Foundation’s mission is to help children and youth to become independent, caring, contributing members of society by supporting programs critical to a child’s successful development. It was founded in 1976 by Minnie K. Grable, the widow of Errett M. Grable. Mr. Grable was a Pittsburgh businessman, and a founder and lifetime director of Rubbermaid, Inc. As longtime residents of Pittsburgh, Mr. and Mrs. Grable supported community and youth organizations in southwestern Pennsylvania and were deeply concerned with the welfare of the Pittsburgh region and all its citizens. In particular, the Grables were strong believers in the importance of education in helping children build productive, self-sustaining, and meaningful lives.

Mrs. Grable continued her gifts to The Grable Foundation until her death at the age of 100 in December 1990, at which time assets from her estate began to be distributed to the Foundation. The Foundation is governed by an eight-member Board of Trustees, most of whom are family members. In developing the Foundation, the Trustees are guided by Mrs. Grable’s desire to help young people lead fulfilling lives and have hopeful futures. The organizations, programs and people supported by the Foundation reflect the Trustees’ commitment to Mrs. Grable’s philanthropic wishes.

About the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy:
To date, the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy (WPC) has protected nearly 225,000 acres of natural lands in Pennsylvania. Now in its 77th year, Pennsylvania’s first conservancy continues to partner with grassroots organizations to protect land, restore watersheds and save natural habitats.

WPC preserves Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater®, which was designed in 1935 and entrusted to the Conservancy in 1963 by Edgar Kaufmann jr. A symbol of living in harmony with nature, Fallingwater is open to the public and offers a wide variety of educational programs to its more than 153,000 annual visitors.

Each year, WPC plants and maintains community gardens and greening projects throughout Western Pennsylvania. In 2008, WPC partnered with more than 8,300 volunteers and dozens of community organizations to plant 140 gardens in 19 western Pennsylvania counties. In addition, 1,250 trees were planted through TreeVitalize, and more than 1,000 hanging flower baskets and planters were provided for business districts of downtown and Pittsburgh neighborhoods.

Photos are available upon request.

The Western Pennsylvania Conservancy is a nonprofit, tax-exempt charitable organization under Section 501(c)(3)
of the Internal Revenue Code, and 100% of your donation is tax-deductable as allowed by law.