In 2017, Robert E. Bell Middle School’s Student Leadership Council Advisors, Justin Olive and Meredith Green, challenged students to apply for a Chappaqua School Foundation (CSF) grant that would have a meaningful impact on the entire student body. They rose to that challenge with a proposal to transform the courtyard space, which had undergone a recent renovation, into a functional learning environment. The grant noted that forming “an alternative classroom environment centered on outdoor collaboration would be a refreshing change of pace” and would also help parents’, students’ and teachers’ concerns regarding “the isolating nature of devices.” The outdoor classroom was installed at the start of the 2020 school year and the goals that prompted its creation are timelier than ever due to the widely-felt impact of COVID-19.
Today, Olive is in a new role as staff developer & K-12 science coordinator and is looking at the space with fresh eyes. “This year, it’s even harder to create an environment where students have the freedom to move around and collaborate. This space will provide us with that opportunity,” he said. Outfitted with a variety of equipment including whiteboards, yoga mats, and crazy creek chairs, the courtyard now appeals to both form and function. As Green says, “These days, we are constantly reimagining what school looks like and having opportunities for outdoor learning experiences are invaluable. Kids are enjoying using it during lunch time and we foresee it becoming a useful space for us in the middle of this pandemic.”
As teachers and administrators forge a new path to learning, they are leveraging every resource available in new and inventive ways. Strategic partnerships between the schools, community and foundations such as CSF have never been more impactful.
– courtesy of the Chappaqua School Foundation