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Abington Friends Arboretum

Abington Friends Arboretum is First Accredited Secondary School Arboretum!

The new arboretum at Abington Friends, a collection of stately trees with wide canopies, has been accredited by ArbNet, an international network for tree-focused professionals that sets the industry standards for public arboreta.  Sue Paist, coordinator for ArbNet, said on Oct. 10 that AFS’s accreditation was the first time a secondary school in the nation had won the elite recognition. In the Philadelphia area, Longwood Gardens and Morris Arboretum are among the public aboreta that have been accredited by ArbNet.

Abington Friends Arboretum and AFS Outside

With grants from the Alumni Class of ’64, The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Resources and Friends Council on Education, AFS has created the Abington Friends Arboretum. Bartlett Tree, Inc. identified and inventoried over 300 of our beautiful, stately trees on campus. Middle School students are busy creating text and taking pictures for about 40 of the trees that will become the Abington Friends Tree Tour ’64. This project is a result of a collaborative effort between the school and the Meeting. As part of these efforts, Pennsylvania Horticultural Society held its Tree Tender classes last spring at AFS, where they taught community members to plant trees and understand how trees benefit the environment.   Several AFS teachers took part in the training, and are now working with middle school students on documenting the trees for the tree tour.  Upper School photography students are also taking photos of each tree and documenting leaves, twigs and bark of each tree.

Jenkintown Creek Restoration Project

Students planted over 350 trees and shrubs in a Jenkintown Creek Restoration Project on campus last year.  This was a joint effort with AFS and Tookany/Tacony-Frankford Watershed Partnership (TTF) to improve the health of the headwaters of Jenkintown Creek, which starts on the school’s campus. Grants from the William Penn Foundation, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection supported this effort. Over 200 students, teachers and parents planted the 25,000 square foot riparian buffer in October 2014. The trees, shrubs, and herbaceous perennials planted along the stream filter out the pollution running from parking lots, the school, and sports fields. The plants also help to create a shady, cool creek (the kind fish enjoy) and wildlife habitat. The diverse mix of plants is the kind you would naturally find in a forest in our region. This buffer provides canopy and roots to absorb rainwater and runoff.

Weather Station

Also last year, the Delaware River Watershed Initiative, the Villanova University Urban Stormwater Partnership and Temple University installed a stand-alone weather station on the roof of the school to monitor the riparian buffer  The weather station monitors: temperature, precipitation, humidity, wind speed and wind direction, solar radiation, barometric pressure, heat index, and dew point. The station also measures storm duration and intensity. Along with a flow meter installed in the creek, this data helps monitor the inflow and outflow of these creek headwaters.

Rain Garden

A recently created Rain Garden manages 17,000 square feet of runoff from the parking lots and playgrounds.  The rain garden captures and filters runoff, which was previously flowing directly to the Creek.

Compacted clay soils were removed and replaced with compost, sand, and topsoil, which have greater void space and capability to store stormwater.  The rain gardens were seeded with deep-rooted native grasses, which improve filtration by removing pollutants from the runoff.  In the spring, TTF and Abington Friends students planted the rain garden at the school with flowers and shrubs.

Redbud Nature Playground

One of our very first efforts was to create the Redbud Nature Playground for our youngest children. The playground is the first certified Nature Explore/Arbor Day Foundation Outdoor Classroom in a school in the state of Pennsylvania. The playground has areas for imaginative play, fort building, sand play, water play, planting areas and a mud kitchen. The area quickly became a hub for students during recess, class times and after school.

Headwaters Discovery Playground

AFS has recently held a ribbon cutting for the Headwaters Discovery Playground that holds exciting new outdoor adventures for our 1st through 6th grade students. With a Treehouse climber, a “Big Science” area and a “Water Play” area, the playground is full of ways to interact with nature and the outdoors. The entire community was involved in the planning of the playground, with student and parent focus groups and a steering committee comprised of parents, faculty and alumni.


  • AFS Class of 1964
  • Friends Council on Education
  • Pennsylvania Horticultural Society
  • PA Department of Environmental Protection