Unique outdoor STEM classroom coming to Philadelphia school
Wednesday, June 15, 2016
Posted by: Amy Seasholtz
New learning area could be the first of its kind,
BY HAYDEN MITMAN
For at least 50 years, the half-acre play space at Chester A. Arthur School in South Philadelphia has been a paved asphalt lot, with little more than a playground and a basketball court for children to utilize.
But that will all change this summer, as a new $1.7 million outdoor green space dedicated to STEM – science, technology, engineering and math – instruction comes to the school thanks to the efforts of the school's friends group, the William Penn Foundation, the Philadelphia Water Department and donations from the community.
"I think this is the first of its kind in the nation. I've done a lot of research and I haven't seen anything like this," said Luz Cardenas, a spokesman for the Fund for the School District of Philadelphia, a nonprofit that works to provide partnerships between public and private entities to benefit the school district.
The Fund for the School District of Philadelphia helped facilitate the partnerships to make the project a reality, she said.
During a ceremonial groundbreaking on Wednesday at the K-8 school at 2000 Catherine St. on Wednesday, students gathered on the lot in 80-degree heat.
But it felt much hotter.
In fact, according to Mike Burlando, co-chair of the Friends of Chester Arthur School Education Foundation, in doing studies while planning for the new STEM school yard, they found that on particularly hot days, the asphalt playspace can feel like 140 degrees.
"But, soon, this space is going to be so much cooler in so many ways," he said.