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Nature: West Philladelphia Landscape Project

The West Philadelphia Landscape Project is an action research program integrating research, teaching, and community service. Design and construction of community landscape projects is one of the most recent projects.

Photo of Keith McCluskey
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Nature: West Philladelphia Landscape Project


Anne Whiston Spirn was a thesis advisor to me in graduate school, and this project that brought middle school students out into their cities to explore nature has always stuck with me:

"The West Philadelphia Landscape Project is an action research program integrating research, teaching, and community service. Faculty and students in Penn's Department of Landscape Architecture and Regional Planning work with community organizations, neighborhood groups, teachers and students in public schools on a wide range of activities. Design and construction of community landscape projects, maintenance of a digital database, devising stormwater management strategies, and curriculum enrichment for an inner-city junior high school are examples of recent projects.

The WPLP has been featured in newspaper articles, national public radio programs, national and international conferences, and professional journals. The goals of the project include development of strategic landscape plans to enhance environmental quality, implementation of landscape improvements to stimulate community development, and mutual strengthening of secondary public school curriculum and undergraduate and professional education at Penn."

The creation of community gardens as a way of bringing people together and teaching students and others about the natural fabric underlying their cities was, to my mind, a very repeatable example of adding vibrancy to cities.

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Photo of Jessica

I love the way this partnership involves universities and middle school students - two "communities" we don't often think of when we think of who to tap for revitalization - together to restore vibrancy to a neighborhood! Thanks for sharing!

Photo of Keith

Thanks Jessica. From what I understand, the focus on young people was definitely intentional, in an effort to grow community and knowledge from the roots - by starting with younger people who could then carry the message forward. And the university / school partnership seems like a natural fit.