The arthur schoolyard

Chester Arthur features the newest and most dynamic Schoolyard in the City of Philadelphia. After a remarkable five-year journey from conception to completion the new $1.7 million Schoolyard officially opened in Spring 2017! 

The Arthur Schoolyard is more than just a playground - it's an outdoor classroom. Designed to optimize and enhance Arthur students' social, emotional, physical and cognitive development, the Schoolyard engages students in both play and learning. Paired with a three-year program of professional and curriculum development, the Schoolyard bridges the gap between theory and practice. The dynamic space encourages interdisciplinary exploration and a multi-sensory experience while fostering the concept of systems thinking and creating a better school environment, inside and out.


FoCA raised nearly $1.7 million over five years to support the transformation of the Schoolyard from asphalt desert to urban oasis. The process began in 2011, with $130,000 from corporate partners and community members to construct a play structure, benches, and plantings in one corner of the space. Over the next five years, FoCA worked to raise funds to complete the balance of the Schoolyard, winning major grants from civic, government, and corporate partners including:

  • $10,000 from the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia
  • $110,000 Neighborhood Transformation Initiative (NTI) grant from the City of Philadelphia with the help of Councilman Johnson. 
  • $175,000 in matching funds from the School District of Philadelphia
  • $232,000 Stormwater Management Incentives Program (SMIP) grant from the Philadelphia Water Department
  • $1,100,000 grant from the William Penn Foundation

With the balance of the funding coming from community donations, FoCA was able to create a Request for Proposal for design services, awarding a contract to design the Schoolyard to SALT Design Studio in Summer 2015. In the fall of 2015, Chester Arthur staff and community members vetted various design schematics prepared by SALT, which then refined a final design for the Schoolyard. FoCA worked closely with the School District throughout the process, partnering with the Office of Capital Programs to manage the construction and with the Fund for the School District of Philadelphia to manage funding administration.


Construction on the Schoolyard started in June 2016.  While the School District managed the construction process day-to-day, FoCA assisted in monitoring construction of the Project, ensuring that SALT's innovative design was carefully executed. Working with the Fund for the School District of Philadelphia, FoCA helped oversee the disbursement of funds, acting as a custodian for the funds generously given by our donors, large and small. Construction was completed in Spring 2017 and the event was celebrated with a ribbon cutting attended by Councilman Kenyatta Johnson, State Senator Jordan Harris, Superintendent William Hite, Mayor Jim Kenney, and many of our generous donors. 


The Schoolyard comprises four labs - Systems, Energy, Motion and Habitat -.which will 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 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 the Schoolyard.  The Schoolyard will not only reinforce classroom learning, it will inspire it.


Now that construction is complete, FoCA is dedicated to maintaining the Schoolyard and we need your help! We will hold a Schoolyard cleanup and planting day each spring, and a cleanup each fall before school starts. We encourage you to follow FoCA on Facebook and join us for those events! We are also looking for volunteers each summer to help water and maintain the plants at the Schoolyard. Sign up here:

Donate to Help Maintain the Schoolyard