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Kids as Urban Scientists: Mapping the Biodiversity of the Philadelphia Promise Zone

Supported by the National Science Foundation

How can science lessons for 4th, 5th, and 6th graders impact a building boom in University City? Thanks to a 3-year, $1.7 million grant from the National Science Foundation, students living near Drexel’s campus will learn more about the bugs, birds, and other creatures in their neighborhood, and their findings will help architects and planners as they lay out buildings for the Schuylkill Yards project.

About 400 children who live or go to school in the West Philadelphia Promise Zone, which includes the neighborhoods of Mantua, Powelton, and parts of West Philadelphia, will work side-by-side with science teachers and scientists from the Academy of Natural Sciences to map the biodiversity of their neighborhood. They will use an app developed by Drexel University researchers to track all the animals and insects living in their area. Their findings will then be turned over to developers who will use their research to determine which species of plants, bushes, trees and flowers should be planted in Schuylkill Yards and around Drexel’s campus to support the biodiversity of the neighborhood.

The project is a win-win for education and development. Students learn how to identify insects and animals, and developers receive sound recommendations on how to build for the future without harming the environment.

You can learn more about this project at