Sayre Breathing Room

In partnership with Penn Praxis, Penn Center for Public Health launched a new initiative to create an outdoor wellness garden called “The Breathing Room” at Sayre High School, as part of the 2023 Projects for Progress.

This project built off of the successful Design to Thrive program model PennPraxis developed at West Philadelphia High School (WPHS).

Project Summary

The Breathing Room will create an outdoor wellness space at Sayre High School that is built collaboratively by Penn students and Sayre students. The team will study the effects of that space on health and include teenagers in all aspects of data collection and analysis, to propel wider action on racial disparities in public school infrastructure and social determinants of health. This team proposes to work with high school students to create an outdoor “calm room” and social space.

The Project Team

Joseph Brand. MS.NPL – Site Director, Sayre University-Assisted Community School, Netter Center

Dyan Castro, M. Arch, MLA – Project Manager + Research Associate, Penn Praxis

Heather Klusaritz, PhD, MSW – Adjunct Assistant Professor, Department of Family Medicine & Community Health

Amanda Cecilia Peña, LSW – Master of City and Regional Planning Candidate, Weitzman School of Design

Project Plans

William L. Sayre High School, at Walnut and 58th Street in Cobbs Creek, is a non-selective catchment high school that serves 358 youth from West Philadelphia and is co-located with the Sayre Health Center, a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC), serving community members of all ages. The large, 11-acre school and health center campus is centrally located in a high-need community with few other open spaces, public institutions, and accessible

This team proposes to work with high school students to create an outdoor “calm room” and social space. This garden will transform the east courtyard of Sayre High School—the bleak space shown in the photos—into a safe oasis. Our project will draw on the success of efforts we have each led at other schools, including an indoor “calm room” and a garden at WPHS that over 30 youth were proud to help build with Penn students led by Amanda Peña and Dyan Castro. The garden will improve the courtyard through rainwater reuse, plants, pollinators, and materials with low embodied energy, including recycled materials that minimize the environmental footprint.

Project Photos