Dance-party shindig will showcase Kelly School’s greening effort this weekend

A group led by Germantown’s Hansberry Garden and Nature Center is now about a year and a half into its community-backed initiative to improve the formerly barren grounds at the John B. Kelly Elementary School.

To highlight its work thus far, the group will host a “Let’s Move with Kelly Green” event at the site on Saturday in Germantown.

Making progress

With a service grant from the Community Design Collaborative, and a charrette late last year to finalize plans to transform the Kelly grounds into a fun, educational and environmentally-friendly place, Kelly Green has its vision in place.

It continues, however, to seek sponsors and raise awareness and funds for the project.

Kelly Green organizer Dennis Barnebey hopes that the event, which will run from 10 a.m. till 4 p.m. and include food, games, community dialogue, music and dance, will draw locals in to see the improvements that are already underway.

Rain-garden complications

These include plans for a rain garden on one corner of the grounds.

Like with many other aspects of the project, however, Barnebey conceded that “what we’re realizing is that there are complications.”

In this case, a traditional rain garden which uses run-off from the roof won’t suffice since Kelly’s gutters are internal downspouts that lead directly to the sewer.

Barnebey said some local volunteers, with relevant expertise, are developing an alternative set-up in an area where water runs into a drain on the ground.

Ultimately, Barnebey said he hopes the rain garden could host edible and medicinal perennials like Echinacea.

“It’s not too expensive,” he said. “We really could do this.”

Penn State Master Gardener’s involvement

The kids have also been working on the school’s new vegetable garden this spring with the help of a volunteer from the Penn State Master Gardeners who is on-site weekly.

Barnebey noted that school gardens are always challenging since peak growing season coincides with summer  vacation.

As a result, a group of men from Canaan Baptist Church have stepped up, volunteering their time to see the garden through the summer.

Further down the line, Barnebey hopes an opportunity for a grant through Whole Foods could enable the school to build a greenhouse that would allow for an educational year-round garden.

Kelly School’s own ‘Giving Tree’

While not a fundraising and programming priority, Barnebey said a memorial of sorts is being planned for a venerable copper beech tree near the front of the school.

A Kelly School fixture, the tree “has been gorgeous for its whole life, and it’s dying,” Barnebey said. “It will probably need to be cut down. I told somebody, and she started to cry. It’s such an emblematic tree.”

Some good will come from its demise, though.

The tree’s plight has inspired Kelly teachers to consider a reading project with Shel Silverstein’s classic, “The Giving Tree.”

At next Saturday’s event, Kelly Green leaders will also solicit neighborhood ideas to honor the tree.

“What can we do with [the wood] that could be useful or fun for the schoolyard?” Barnebey asked, explaining that the old beech could continue onsite as benches, a table or a structure to play on. “We want to engage people to think about that.”

The party

This spring, students have been getting their best dance moves ready at recess, with the help of a few Penn State interns.

They will show off what they’ve learned to Beyonce’s “Move Your Body” (as inspired by Michelle Obama’s youth-fitness campaign).

Starting at 10 a.m., visitors will have a chance to check out the gardening projects already underway, share their ideas for the grounds, and learn about opportunities to support the ongoing initiatives.

There will also be games and dance challenges for kids and adults, including basketball and a double-dutch contest.

Food trucks will be there, and healthy snacks will be provided.

At 3 p.m., the live, kid-friendly dance party will continue with internationally-touring New York-based hip hop artist Homeboy Sandman.

“This is a space that can be valuable for kids [and] for the entire neighborhood,” Barnebey said of the Kelly Green initiative. “We’re using it in the way it should be used, active and healthy.”

The “Let’s Move with Kelly Green” party will be held on the grounds of the John B. Kelly School, 5116 Pulaski Ave.

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