Pupils nurture a garden above the classrooms

When the bell rings for recess in Piraeus’s 11th Junior High, not all the children run out into the yard to play basketball. Some of them go upstairs to their roof garden, where the main features are an almond and lemon tree, herbs, oleanders and geraniums. «We water the plants which insulate the roof and cool it in summer months,» said Anna, a third-year student. The school’s environmental group has 60 members who have done projects on renewable energy sources, bioclimatic buildings and greenroofs. They themselves built the greenroof on their school. «About two years ago, they drafted a plan for how they wanted it to look,» said Margarita Thymara, the group’s leader. «We decided on a structure with benches and umbrellas. With expert help, the children watched the different insulating layers being installed and did the planting under the guidance of horticulturists.» «If you come here on a Friday afternoon you’ll see 60-70 children attending extracurricular activities here, such as cinema and theater. This area stays much cleaner than the rest of the school. They don’t dare drop litter here, or probably they don’t want to,» said physics teacher and the school’s deputy director Giorgos Nikas. The success of the project is largely due to the personal involvement of staff members who have given up some of their free time. «It is what is needed in these times – which are so hard that you have to do a bit more than usual,» said the school’s director, Terpsithea Hadzimanoli, who teaches French. Some of the students in the group talked about the roof’s benefits. «The plants absorb carbon dioxide emitted by buildings and traffic and give us oxygen,» they said. Birds and butterflies also visit the garden, flitting about to the sound of a Mozart sonata broadcast from within the school library. This article first appeared in the April issue of Kathime-rini’s magazine Eco.