Living Wall gets a makeover


The Living Wall in the main lobby has been redone. This wall, across from the athletics office, has been stripped of the plants that once resided there and replaced with new ones planted at the end of October.

Created in 2014, the Living Wall was a student-led project started by Elliot Fix, Class of 2016. Fix wrote the grant for the wall himself, which received funding from the New Voices of Youth Initiative at The Pittsburgh Foundation and Wooly Pocket Garden Company, Inc. Fix and the GATE Program also received help from the building and grounds crew to visualize it.

“The whole point behind it was to scrub the air. Indoor plants are supposed to be really good for keeping the air clean and that was his whole push. (Elliot) was very environmentally conscious,” GATE teacher Mrs. Christina Palladino said.

Several different plants that are low light tolerant, house plants will be grown on the wall including Anthurium, Pilea, Japanese Asplenium nidus fern, and Peperomia Obtipan. The plants can be grown year-round, and are watered automatically through a watering system connected in the ceiling. The plants are arranged specifically to grow in a zig-zag pattern along the wall.

For some unexplained reason, the watering system is not as effective on the left side of the wall  so succulent plants, ones that do not need as much watering, are being installed on that side.

The teachers involved have consulted other businesses who have living walls and looked at pictures of them for inspiration. The concept is fairly popular at the moment and seems to be a trend in schools and other larger buildings.

The wall has a subconscious effect on the student body. Even if students and teachers haven’t paid much attention to it, they did notice once the plants were removed.

Because many of the rooms in the high school do not have windows, the wall serves the purpose of beautifying the school, improving the air quality and promoting biodiversity in the community. Sustainability teacher Ms. Abbey Nilson, whose club is helping the GATE program with the project, said that the wall will “promote good air quality, boost mood, and lower stress.”

“I like the plants and I think there should be more around the school,” junior Lena Murphy said.

More projects like this are unlikely because of the cost and maintenance involved.

One of the biggest issues with the wall is simple upkeep of the project. At first, kids wanted to help with the wall, but once those kids graduated, the number of students who were willing to help dwindled.

Mrs. Kathleen Elder and Mrs. Palladino, who run the GATE Program, are hoping there are current students willing to help with the Living Wall. They will need help pruning the plants and pulling off the dead leaves once in the fall and once in the spring. They will also need help decorating the wall for the holidays. If you are interested in helping, you can email Mrs. Elder or stop by the GATE room.

The point of the wall, outside of the aesthetic value, is to purify the air in the lobby. Mrs. Elder says that they will be testing the air quality in this area of the building before and after the Living Wall is reinstalled.

The upkeep of the wall is fairly easy. The watering system will automatically turn on and water the plants throughout the week. The cost of the project is around $1,000 and will be funded by the Shaler Area Education Fund.