Mrs. Joy Morrow, Dr. Kweon, and Dr. Ellis: Improvements to New Hope Academy
New Hope Academy sits on a hilltop overlooking a flood plain. It is prone to storm water management issues which unfortunately propel erosion. Principal Joy Morrow took up a partnership with the University of Maryland Landscape Architecture to address these issues and a host of other environmental concerns. With the help of Drs. Byoung-Suk Kweon and Christopher Ellis, the issues are being successfully addressed.
New Hope Academy is a non-profit private school located in Prince George’s County, MD, and serves students in grades PreK-12. The school was founded in 1990, and for the past 25 years, has been under the administration of Principal Morrow. Approximately three years ago, the Academy was in need of environmental renovations. Morrow got in contact with Dr. Kweon and Dr. Ellis, two landscape architects at the University of Maryland, College Park. Morrow’s plan was to incorporate nature-based playgrounds around the Academy, and she knew that approaching UMD’s landscape architects was her best option.
Dr. Kweon’s landscape architecture students went to the Academy to generate ideas on possible schoolyard renovations. Additionally, they held individual workshops with students at New Hope Academy to garner their feedback and suggestions for improving the school. “The experience was eye-opening for the kids” Morrow mentions, “they were so happy about the changes and some were even inspired to become landscape architects”. After the workshops, Kweon’s students created preliminary designs based on what kids wanted, more specifically in the playgrounds at the Academy.
Workshops were also held for the board directors of the school and parents from the town of Landover Hills. This workshop allowed the board of directors, who oversee changes around New Hope Academy, to understand the value of the project and why funds should be put into this project.
While working with Kweon and Ellis over the past three years, Morrow applied for three grants to aid in making the proposed changes around the school. Morrow worked with the town of Landover Hills, adjacent to the Academy, to address common erosion problems. Water runoff from the street is diverted along the property boundaries, causing erosion along with excess water run-off through the parking lot of the Academy. Morrow partnered with Landover Hills and UMD to apply for a grant to treat the storm-water through a community rain garden park. The grant assisted in the establishment of not only erosion controls, but also a series of bioretention cells that filter and clean the water before releasing it slowly down stream. The team received a grant for $126,578 from Chesapeake Bay Trust in 2015 allowing the project to go through the county permit review process over the winter.
Another grant was received from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to write lesson plans for different grade levels so students at the school can learn how soil and plants work together to clean stormwater and to understand the importance of environmental stewardship. The EPA grant is in its second and final year of production. A manual of lesson plans for learning about low impact stormwater management techniques will result from these efforts and will be distributed widely for free download.
A third grant was awarded this past year by the Chesapeake Bay Trust. This grant will enable run-off from the school parking lot to be captured and treated. Technical design documents for this were drawn up with the help of Drs. Kweon and Ellis and their students. Chesapeake Bay Trust awarded the team with $125,000 to rework the parking lot and the final design revision are currently being completed.
Morrow is continuing to make changes at the Academy. She is working on adding garden boxes on nature playgrounds, adding new patios, and working on a raincheck program for more storm water treatment. Morrow is optimistic about the future of New Hope Academy. Most importantly, she gives credit to Dr. Kweon and Dr. Ellis, saying that “they have just been wonderful. They’re great to work with, and I never could have done any of this without them.”