At a June 14th press conference, it was announced that a small corner of Philadelphia’s University District will be transformed this fall when Chester A. Arthur elementary school completes work on its state-of-the-art Outdoor STEM Learning Center, an interactive space for students that will include four science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) learning laboratories, multi-purpose recreational offerings and the largest greenway in the area.
When students enter these innovative laboratories for the first time, they’ll be learning from curricula developed by TCNJ’s Center for Excellence in STEM Education, a multidisciplinary consortium of faculty and researchers from the schools of science, engineering and education with the mission of delivering exceptional STEM programming models for all strata of learners.
The center was selected by the Friends of Chester Arthur, the Fund for the School District of Philadelphia and the William Penn Foundation because of its commitment to transformative STEM education. Center staff, faculty and researchers have been integral in the project’s development from the outset, working in tandem with landscape architects on the design of the outdoor laboratories and developing individualized STEM curricula for educators at the school.
“The center could not be more excited about being the educational lead on this project,” said Steve O’Brien, the director of the Center for Excellence in STEM Education and an associate professor of technological studies at TCNJ. “The highly talented multi-organizational team formed for this project will not only impact the community in and around the Chester Arthur school, but we expect outcomes from this project will be widely portable to other communities across the region and nation.”
The partnership is consistent with the center’s goal of integrating means-tested best practices to enhance STEM learning at all grade levels. Each of the four interactive outdoor learning laboratories will be designed around a different theme, including a habitat lab where students will learn about the role of pollinators in the food system, an ecological systems lab, a motion and propulsion lab that includes a 50-meter track and sun-dial, and an energy lab where students will manage a raised-bed urban garden.