At the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy (WPC), all of our work enhances the quality of life in our region. Founded in 1932, Western Pennsylvania Conservancy is the state’s first conservancy, and we have protected more than 228,000 acres. The Western Pennsylvania Conservancy helped to establish ten state parks, including Ohiopyle, Laurel Ridge, McConnells Mill, Moraine, Oil Creek and Erie Bluffs, and we continue to conserve exceptional places to provide our region with clean waters and healthy forests, wildlife and natural areas. Western Pennsylvania Conservancy owns and operates Fallingwater, the famous Frank Lloyd Wright house in Fayette County. Western Pennsylvania Conservancy is a member-supported nonprofit organization with many volunteer opportunities.
The program I coordinate, the School Grounds Greening (SGG) Project, operates within the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy Community Gardens and Greenspace department. My department leads several highly visible projects throughout the region that connect people with nature. The Community Gardens program plants and maintains 140 gardens with over 200,000 flowers in cities and towns throughout Western Pennsylvania. Through TreeVitalize Pittsburgh, we are planting 20,000 trees throughout the city by 2012. Plus, we’re making downtown Pittsburgh beautiful through hundreds of planters and hanging baskets. In all, our work is maintained with help of over 12,000 volunteers each year.
The School Grounds Greening Project has brought children closer to nature by enhancing school grounds through low-maintenance, sustainable greenery. By the end of 2011, each school in the Pittsburgh Public School district will have received landscape enhancements as well as flexible “green spaces” used for outdoor learning, play, and reflection. From the outset, the program involves students, teachers, parents, and community members in the planning, implementation and care-taking of each project.
The School Grounds Greening Project was initially inspired by Richard Louv’s book Last Child in the Woods, which demonstrates that children need nature as much as nature needs children. The program aims to enrich our children’s educational experiences and learning environment by creating opportunities to play, learn, and socialize in outdoor settings. Through this process, we hope to bring the ecological, aesthetic, and financial benefits to the school and its surrounding community. The School Grounds Greening Project also connects Pittsburgh to a growing international movement highlighting the nutritional, intellectual, and psychological benefits of nature on childhood development.
Interested in career opportunities at the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy? They have a great internship program. Learn more about it on the next post of this series.