Jackson School Gets a Rooftop Garden

In South Philly, neighbors celebrated a move toward increased community and sustainability with a November 23rd ribbon cutting ceremony for the Andrew Jackson School Rooftop Garden at 1213 S. 12th St. in Passyunk Square. This comes on the heels of plans for another rooftop garden at a different public school south of Broad.

Jackson School

This garden differs in form and function from the stormwater management garden we told you about last spring, planned for South Philly High. This summer, the project exceeded its Kickstarter goal to raise necessary funds, Newsworks reported.

At the Jackson School, the roof is less than one-story off the ground. The garden will occupy one-third of the roof of a partially-subterranean multi-purpose room, which has been used as an outdoor space for a classroom that was once a library. Plans for the garden grew out of Principal Kaplan’s plans to turn the space into a living roof, according to Steve Viscelli, a parent of two Jackson school student students, who led the charge to build the 2,000 sqft garden.

"Rooftop" garden is in the rear

The garden includes a number of raised beds built of cypress wood. It will double as a community garden on one side and a garden lab for students on the other, with educational programming to be crafted around nutrition and gardening. Plans are for students to eventually develop a small mushroom farm in the school’s basement where students will also learn some aspects of running a small business as they figure out how to sell the mushrooms to the community.

The garden was designed through a collaborative effort between community members and members of Passyunk Square Civic Association knowledgeable about gardening, according to Viscelli. It will be void of specific stormwater management elements, and is more of step one towards a larger goal of greening the school. Funds for the garden were raised in part through Viscelli’s work as a visiting assistant professor of sociology and anthropology at Swarthmore. He received a grant to develop classes around the project.

This is an example of community members joining together to help their school in the face of a budget crisis that’s taking a major bite out of education. “There’s a lot of bad stuff going with the school and funding that we can’t do anything about,” said Viscelli.

Bringing parents and neighbors together to build a rooftop garden is something they can do. Maybe as a next step, an organization like the Community Design Collaborative could come in with a charrette and provide the community with some additional planning?

–Lou Mancinelli