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Kensington students design new green schoolyard

William Cramp Elementary School has a new yard that was designed over more than two years by its students.
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    Juliselle Burgos dances on Monday with "Los Bomberos de la Calle" before a "hard hat"|Charles Mostoller

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    "Los Bomberos de la Calle" perform at the unveiing.|Charles Mostoller

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    Superintendent William Hite at the ribbon-cutting|Charles Mostoller

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    Workers landscape the mulched, planted area in William Cramp Schoolyard.

A schoolyard in the heart of Kensington has a brighter atmosphere thanks to a recently unveiled green redesign.

"This was just a concrete expanse," said William Cramp Elementary School principal Deanda Logan on Monday,pointing out at a yard that now has mulched areas, vegetation, and an outdoor classroom. "What we neededis something that say to our children, parents, and community, 'Welcome to Cramp. We're happy you're here.'"

The redesign was dreamt up over two years by a group of Cramp students who have now moved on to sixth grade at various middle schools, but returned to Cramp for the unveiling of the new yard attended by Superintendent William Hite and Mayor Michael Nutter.

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"This is a gift from us to them and all the other people that are coming," said sixth-grader Daylisha Torres, before leading Nutter, Hite and other guests on a tour of the improvements.

Sixth-grader Leah Lopez pointed out a large area of mulch with vegetation on one side of the schoolyard.

"Here's the garden," she said. "We put plants here so we can have more nature in our school."

An outdoor classroom area has a semi-circle arrangement oflarge stones so teachers can bring their students outside. Nearby is a large square that's been re-landscaped with small rocks intoa sportsfield.

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"It's gonna be really nice," said sixth grader Justin Collazo. "Children have the choice in what they want to play. The overall purpose is for the neighbors and children of William Cramp to have a place to play, see the gardens and see the world around them."

There's also a permanently installed music area outside the school with metal drums and a metal xylophone-style instrument. Students said the schoolhas never had a music class.

"We were doing this project for two whole years. Now our dreams are coming true," said sixth-grader Jennifer Jimenez.

Nutter saidthe project was in keeping with "William Penn's vision of a green country town."

Even though Philadelphia has Fairmount Park, the largest urban park system in the U.S., many residents still don't have a park or playground less than 10 minutes' walk away from their homes.

The project was funded by private and foundation donors, and organized by city agencies in partnership with the Trust for Public Land.

A newly founded Friends of William Cramp group plans to care for the redesigned yard for the benefit of future students.

"This is everything," Logan said. "Kids love to play."

 

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