5 Boston Public Schoolyards

This project, designed in collaboration with Horsley Witten Group, consisted of green infrastructure retrofit and landscape design services for the Boston Water and Sewer Commission as part of Boston Public Schools’ 10-year Master Plan. The project entailed extensive soil and stormwater tests, charrettes with teachers and students, 5 public meetings, and full design services for 5 Boston public schools. Additionally, the team included a curriculum writer, and student lesson plans were developed in concert with the design project to teach students about watersheds and stormwater.

New play-yards, outdoor classrooms, improved entry sequences, and parking lots with green infrastructure were designed for 5 Boston schoolyards to provide school beautification and opportunities for play and nature education. The new designed programs include porus stormwater-holding athletic fields, amphitheaters, raingardens, bioswales, tree box filters (creating a school arboretum), pollinator meadows, porus pavements, rainwater collection cisterns and troughs for water play. The installations are designed to mimic local ecosystems such as a river’s edge, a wetland, a forest floor, and the Charles River Basin Watershed.  The overall objective for the project is to keep stormwater and phosphorus out of the city pipes that drain to the Charles river while also providing improved aesthetics, education and play opportunities for students. The planting at each school was designed to mimic a unique local ecosystem to teach lessons of ecology and stainability.

A unique plant community was created at each of the 5 Boston Schoolyards to test and compare how various matrixes of plants would perform in green infrastructure at urban schoolyards.  Each school’s plant palette was designed differently, so the planting strategies can be compared over time.  The plantings are designed to be an educational centerpiece for each school and additionally provide wildlife food and habitat in addition to stormwater cleansing benefits.  The planting designs are entirely comprised of low-maintenance plants to minimize weeding, irrigation, and long-term maintenance inputs over time once the plants establish.

Overall, the installations have both beautified the schools and have demonstrated the success of  low-maintenance green infrastructure retrofits in public landscapes with minimal maintenance resources. The science curriculum developed as part of our project has been so successful with teachers and students, that the curriculum developed was rolled out at the 5th and 8th grade level at other Boston Schools.


Climate Resiliency, Green Infrastructure, Phytoremediation, Public

Hernandez Elementary School (Roxbury)
Washington Irving School (Roslindale)
Kennedy School (Mission Hills)
Jackson-Mann (Arlington)
Ellis School (Roxbury)

Completed 2019

Client: BWSC (Boston Water and Sewer Commission) and BPS (Boston Public Schools)
Partnering Non-profit Consultant: Charles River Watershed Association
Project Lead Engineer: Horsely Witten Group
Surveyor: Bryant Associates
Curriculum Consultant: Kristen Mez