Highlandtown Elementary/Middle School #215, a Baltimore City certified green school, participated in the first annual Green Apple Day of Service on Saturday. The goal of the project was to transform the school’s existing playground into a beautiful, clean playground and garden for the benefit of the students and neighborhood.
Over 60 volunteers including teachers, students, local businesses, and members of the community teamed up to execute the difficult task of overhauling the playground. Nancy Fagan, Highlandtown’s principal, and faculty members Joan Goodson and Alison Moore collaborated with Louisa Rettew, a project engineer from the Baltimore County Department of Public Works, to execute the event.
Fagan “really liked the part of the community coming in. This will add value to the community.”
Students Michael Candelario, 13, and Jasmin Briones, 13, arrived at 8 a.m. Saturday to start working.
“I want our school to be better and the playground to be cleaner for the other children” said Candelario.
The sense of community, philanthropy, and teamwork at the event was palpable. At the close of the day, the playground looked as if it was professionally made over. Faculty and neighbors hope the improvement will reduce vandalism.
“This is one of the nicest green school projects I have seen,” said Goodson.
Rettew added that the project will help the neighborhood in “developing a sense of ownership.”
Moore said her jaw dropped when she saw how quickly the makeover was being accomplished.
“I am so happy that there is this much support and energy,” she said.
Moore came to the school in 1998 when it was one of the most underperforming schools, she said. In the past 13 years she has witnessed major improvements.
Miguel Rivera, a neighbor of the school, is the founder and president of M.A.R. Stone Contractor Inc. In addition to offering a professional touch on Saturday, Rivera and his wife, Estella Rivera, invited the school to use their vegetable garden as a resource to teach the students about gardening. Faculty members claim Rivera has been improving the neighborhood for years.
Dishell Threet White and her son, Ra’Quan Davis, 10, volunteered to benefit the neighborhood. They live two blocks away and Ra’Quan does not attend the school.
“We were walking by and wanted to help,” said Threet White.
Local businesses helped facilitate the project. Hord Coplan Macht Inc. provided the design, landscape and architecture for the playground. Julie Higgins said that her firm got involved with the project through its membership with the U.S. Green Building Council. David Kelly, director of Jani-King of Baltimore, also a USGBC member, was hard at work with the other volunteers.
Baltimore Community ToolBank donated the tools; Belair Road Supply donated the pavers; mulch, compost and labor was donated by Live Green Landscape Associates; labor and haulage was donated by Lorenz, Inc.; and The StoneStore helped supply the stone, gravel and sand. There were a number of smaller donations from other companies.
Highlandtown achieved certification as a Maryland Green School in June. Fagan, Goodson and Moore were faculty members who worked at achieving the certification. Green Apple Day of Service is sponsored by the USGBC’s Center for Green Schools.
Special to the Baltimore Guide
Leslie Spacek is currently working towards a Masters Degree in Journalism at the University of Maryland.