Chester Arthur’s Schoolyard Inspires Inquiry Driven, Project-Based Learning!

Arthur’s Schoolyard was designed with four labs – Systems, Energy, Motion and Habitat – each of which helps maximize the teaching and learning potential of the school and its students. While construction of the Schoolyard is now complete, efforts on the part of Arthur teachers to develop curriculum to be applied in the new space are underway and ongoing. Arthur teachers are currently working with The College of New Jersey - a project that FoCA pays for through its William Penn Foundation grant - to develop project-based, STEM curriculum that utilizes the many inquiry-driven components of the Schoolyard. For example, Arthur students will not only learn math in class, but their teachers can use the same basketball court where students engage in gross-motor play to demonstrate the x and y axes. Or a teacher can augment a conversation in class about the earth's rotation and changing seasons with an opportunity for students to use the sundial. In this way, the Schoolyard will not only reinforce classroom learning, it will inspire it.

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Arthur second grade teacher Susan Meyers has been a pioneer in using the Schoolyard to enhance classroom curriculum. One of the first teachers to work with TCNJ three years ago, Ms. Meyers describes the experience as “awesome” and shared that she has built a deeper understanding of the engineering design process through her work with TCNJ. Partnering with TCNJ, Ms. Meyers conducted a curricular unit on filtering water. The students implemented the engineering design process to design their own water filter. Once their design was complete, students built their water filters from supplies provided by TCNJ and then tested those filters in class. After testing, the students were encouraged to improve on their designs and re-build and re-test their filters. “The room was a mess for a couple days,” said Ms. Meyers, “but it was worth it.” After completing the in-class portion of this curricular unit, Ms. Meyers brought her classroom to the Schoolyard to learn about stormwater runoff and how the Schoolyard’s rain garden is a permeable surface that allows water to percolate into the soil, which – like the water filters the students designed in class – filters out pollutants and ultimately recharges the water table. The students walked away from this learning experience with an appreciation for the necessity of plants, green spaces and pervious surfaces. We look forward to increased use of the Schoolyard by Arthur teachers in the years to come!