Community Building



Here are some things to think about:

What struggles are important to your community?

Why are these struggles important?

What are some origin narratives around these struggles?

How can you get involved or make a difference?


the Reading Viaduct

The Reading Viaduct


Vacant lot beside the Reading Viaduct

The lot behind FACTS next to the Reading Viaduct at street-level.


Download a copy of the target analysis done by the students.

Download a pdf of the letter to Mayor Nutter

Greening the Reading Viaduct


FACT Charter School is located next to an abandoned elevated railroad track, now known as the Reading Viaduct. When we explore the neighborhood around our school, the students observe and reflect on the weed-covered railroad bed itself, the adjoining trash-filled vacant lots, and the often-dripping and shadowy railroad bridges that cross neighborhood streets.

Vacant lot beside the Reading Viaduct

The lot behind FACTS next to the Reading Viaduct as seen from the balcony of FACTS.

AAU’s Community Action Class I

a class for middle school students
held at FACTS during the 2007–08 school year

The students:

  • observed the problems caused by the abandoned railroad;
  • heard presentations by two community groups with opposing views on what to do about the viaduct (convert it into a linear park or tear it down);
  • debated the pros and cons of the two sides; and
  • gave a presentation to Board members and administrators of FACT Charter School and AAU summarizing the two competing views.

This student work helped adults in the leadership of the two organizations to clarify their own thinking about what should be done about the future of the Reading Viaduct.


AAU’s Community Action Class II

a class for middle school students
held at FACTS during the 2007–08 school year

Students documented the blighting effect created by the viaduct and came up with immediate and medium range goals. We wanted:

  • Reading’s vacant lots next to our school cleaned immediately;
  • the fences surrounding the lots fixed;
  • commitment to a regular schedule of cleaning of the vacant lots; and
  • permission for us to use one of the small vacant parcels for a community garden.

The students:

  • Documented the problems by taking photos and writing captions;
  • Discussed who had the power to change these problems and what might influence them;
  • Wrote letters to the Mayor, City Councilman, the City’s Licenses and Inspections Department, and the viaduct’s owner (Reading International) asking for the lots to be cleaned, showing them photos demonstrating the problem, and laying out our other longer term goals;
  • And, after the lot was cleaned, sent thank you letters.

Letter to Mayor Nutter

May 2, 2008

Dear Mayor Nutter,

We are 6th and 7th grade students from the Folk Arts-Cultural Treasures Charter School at 1023 Callowhill Street. We are writing this letter to inform you that the company who owns the Reading Railroad lot has kept the lot very dirty and has lots of trash. We hate looking at the trash. The owner doesn’t clean the lot and doesn’t even allow our school to help clean it.

Every time we go on the school bus and see the lot, we feel bad. If that space is very dirty, the parents of the students who come to visit our school feel uncomfortable. It has a bad impact on our school. If the trash isn’t cleaned up, the visitors from other countries who might be touring the U.S.A will also have a negative impression of our school and the country.

We are also trying to get Reading Company to rent part of the lot to us so we can make a park or garden or something useful there. The land is being wasted and is not used right now.

Mr. Mayor, please help us get the lot fixed up. If that place is clean, everyone in our community will say that you can stand tall and proud. You are a good mayor. We want you to take some action to help clean up the lot. If you think about having trash like this next to your house, you wouldn't feel well either.

If you do not believe us, we invite you to visit our school and look at our environment. We are thankful for you taking time to read this letter. We hope you can take action to do something. Thank you very much!

[FACTS Students]


AAU is committed to working towards environmental sustainability and the greening of the neighborhood around FACTS and is continuing with the greening of the Reading Viaduct and a small parcel of land near the viaduct behind FACTS.