31 West Coulter Street
Philadelphia, PA 19144

Rain Gardens, Cisterns, Green Roof, Native Butterfly Garden and Restored Woodlands

Germantown Friends School (GFS) uses the Quaker principles of community and stewardship to guide their designs, installations, activities and education. These principles have led the school to install an impressive number of “green” features that not only filter and store rainwater, but also serve as a living outdoor classroom. GFS is a model for the integration of sustainability, functionality and education!

1. Rain Gardens: Rain gardens create an attractive and useful courtyard between the Hargroves building and the science building. They are part of the building’s stormwater management system, and were specifically designed to collect rain from the parking lot, the Hargroves roof and the science building roof. The gardens were planted in order to alllow rainwater to circulate through the gardens and percolate slowly back into ground water, reducing water discharge into the sanitary sewer.

2. Cisterns: Two 5,000 gal. cisterns sit in front of the cinderblock wall that connects Hargroves to the new science center at ground level. These cisterns collect rainwater and recycle it back into the building for use as gray water (for flushing toilets).

3. Green Roofs: There are two green roofs on the new urban science center, one is on the main roof while another accessible green roof over the vestibule also helps to absorb rainwater. Some portions of the upper roof are also green, but not accessible to students. These roofs and gardens are planted with species that are native to Pennsylvania, and many of them have medicinal applications, including Echinacea, Liatris, Asclepias, Agastache, and Calamintha.

4. Native Butterfly Garden and Restored Woodlands: The Lower School Environmental Action Club has been working for the past five and a half years to restore native habitats on the property. They installed and maintain a perennial butterfly garden in the commons and have been removing invasive plants and restoring native ones in the woods at the back of the property.

GFS is also home to Project Flow, where students examine water across three dimensions: environmental science, political/economic, and expressive arts. By tying their work to specific outcomes relating to social justice, students use their talents and knowledge to educate and advocate for change.

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