Grants Provide Opportunities for Outdoor Learning at Wilson

"I wish we could do this everyday!" exclaimed a 4th grade student while working outside in the Wilson courtyard.  She and her classmates had patiently waited for Spring to arrive so they could transplant the tomato and pepper plants they grew indoors from seeds.  The students knew that having the right temperature was just one of the basic needs of plants to grow.  They had researched plant life cycles, created informational videos about gardening, and were ready to put their knowledge to the test.

A student shows two pepper seeds in her hand.
Fourth Grade students plant tomato seeds to grow indoors.
Little seedlings begin to sprout.

The courtyard at Wilson did not always have a designated space for students to garden.  As pictured below, the underused space was in need of a revamp.  Thanks to the South Bend Education Foundation and Lowe's Toolbox for Education, grants were awarded in the spring of last year to make "The Courtyard Project" possible.  Funds were used for gardening supplies as well as new classroom technology.  Students immediately began brainstorming what they envisioned for the courtyard- a vegetable garden, new flowers, bird observation area, and weather center.  Goals were set to beautify the outdoor space and engage students in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, & Math) activities that tied to Indiana State Standards.

Before and After photos of the Wilson courtyard.
4th Graders work together to clear out a space for the new garden beds.
Students dig out weeds and spread soil.

A QR Code provides the link to an informational video 4th graders made about how to grow cherry tomatoes.

One such STEM project allowed Mrs. Jacobs' 3rd graders to expand their learning by exploring math concepts digitally.  The students in Mrs. Jacobs class had been learning to find the area and perimeter of rectangles on paper, but with a Designing App on the iPad, they could create 3-D models of real world spaces like the courtyard.  First the students had to use appropriate tools to record the measurements they needed.  Angela explained the process: "My group and I used a measuring wheel to find the length and width of the courtyard.  We decided that the wheel was the best tool because our measuring tape only went to 25 feet.  The courtyard was about 66 by 54 feet, so with those measurements we were able to solve for the area and perimeter.  We also figured out how many garden beds could fit in the spaces."  Just like architects in the professional world, these third grade students applied math skills to solve real problems.

Third graders use a measuring wheel to find the length and width of the courtyard.
A student records the measurements of the courtyard dimensions.
Students work together to solve for the area and perimeter of the courtyard.
Tammy begins her 3-D design project on the iPad.
A third-grade student's digital model of the courtyard that is to scale.

Learning also came to life for Mr. Bergeron's 2nd graders as they observed northern cardinals, blue jays, and robins in the courtyard.  They even saw a house sparrow build its nest!  The students had been researching common Indiana birds through Nonfiction texts and published video reports to online portfolios.  With the use of QR codes, students from other classrooms were able to scan and watch the informational videos.

Outdoor education has many proven benefits; it allows students to connect to their environment, develop positive school memories, and foster stewardship and responsibility.  Students at Wilson have gained hands-on experience in learning how to take care of plants and cultivate food.  With the addition of a rain gauge and thermometer, they've recorded and graphed weather data.  Students have observed birds, turtles, and frogs in their natural habitat and discovered how various physical features help these animals survive.  When students walk by the courtyard they take pride in the beautiful space they helped create.  Thanks to South Bend Education Foundation and Lowe’s, the courtyard project will provide engaging STEM activities for years to come.

#Toolbox4Education #TeamSouthBend #WilsonPrimarySchool #STEM #SBEDFO

Post and Photos by Sarah Archer


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