by Emily Vanneman

As one of the “greenest” areas of Philadelphia, Chestnut Hill has a reputation for promoting sustainable living and educational programs relating to the environment. Aiming to build on this tradition are the Friends of J.S Jenks, a support group for the J. S. Jenks Elementary School, which is hoping to raise $1,800 for the project.

Last year, Jenks installed a vegetable garden to help educate students about plant life and sustainability. Because of the success of the vegetable garden, Friends of J.S Jenks hopes to expand the area to create an outdoor educational center for the students.

“We are proposing to create a student-operated native plant garden that will complement an ongoing green curriculum led by grades 4-5 to benefit the entire school,” said Haviva Goldman, president of the Friends of J.S. Jenks. “Working together with the school’s Beautification Committee, the classes will convert several plots to native plant gardens, document plant and wildlife characteristics through the seasons, while learning about the importance of the plants to the ecosystem.”

Friends of J.S. Jenks is aiming to involve the community in the garden sustainability program, as well.

The Friends group is a combined school and community organization that strives to support the school. It is comprised of Jenks parents, grandparents, alumni parents, teachers and other community members.

Parents and staff of the school are automatically members of the organization, and community members who are interested in the well-being of the school are free to join.

Goldman hopes the new garden will be as successful as last year’s.

The fifth-grade students of Jenks were the primary caretakers of the garden when it was installed. The students worked on caring for the tomato seedlings while some parents provided help over the summer months.

“In the fall, we had a school-wide picnic at which we served foods derived from the produce of our garden,” said Goldman.

Amy Edelman, of Night Kitchen Bakery, and Brenda Board, of Oliver and Company Tea Room, volunteered their skills to prepare the menu for the picnic.

The new efforts made by the school and Friends of J.S. Jenks involves expanding the outdoor classroom and resources that have already been put in place.

“The garden will be accessible to the community, as it will be located nearby pathways that lead to the school’s playground which is heavily utilized by families from throughout Northwest Philadelphia,” Goldman said.

The garden will be expanded to two areas of the schools campus: one on the corner of Southampton and Ardleigh streets and the other bordering the edge of the Ardleigh Street side of the playground.

“We have also applied to the Chestnut Hill Community Fund for grant funds to purchase outdoor tables with benches to add to the utility of the outdoor classroom,” said Adam Eyring, vice president of Friends of J.S. Jenks.

To donate to the cause, anyone who already has a Recyclebank account can go to www.recyclebank.com/contest/index/school/id/112/. Each 250 points donated is worth one dollar. Participants can earn additional points by recycling each week.

“We have already raised over $500, but are trying to raise $1,800 so that we can complete the project. The deadline for donating points is March 16, 2014,” Goldman said.