Rain Garden Brings Outdoor Classroom and Innovative Learning to Collingswood, New Jersey Students

Students from Zane North Elementary School in Collingswood, New Jersey, will challenge their minds and get their hands dirty this spring as they engage in the creation of an ecologically sustainable, community enhancing rain garden on school grounds as part of a collaborative project between Perkins Center for the Arts, Rutgers University and the students and community of Zane North School. This innovative project kicks off on April 20th to coincide with the celebration of Earth Day and will be one of the region’s first in-school residencies that implements the educational initiative known as STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math), highlighting the important role of art and design education as a catalyst for creativity in all disciplines.

Students will work under the leadership of professional teaching tile/mosaic artists Linda Shusterman and Joe Brennan in the creation of handmade tiles for mosaic benches and stepping stones. Lending their unique voices to the project, students will discuss themes of water, life renewal, and regeneration as part of the design process. The objects will be placed around the rain garden, creating a permanent “working classroom” environment, one that will continue to grow and evolve through the stewardship of students, teachers and community members.

5th graders at Zane North have already dug into the environmental science of the rain garden as they observed the percolation test performed by Rutgers University. Mike Haberland, Environmental and Resources Specialist with the Cooperative Extension has overseen the selection of the Lees Avenue site, soil remediation plan, and plantings for the rain garden.

Thomas Santo, Principal of Zane North Elementary School and Karen Chigounis, Perkins Center’s Director of ARTS ( Arts Reaching the Students) Education have worked closely to establish the framework for the residency. Mr. Santo describes the project as “ the perfect opportunity for Zane students to explore out-of-the-box thinking through creativity, critical thinking, communication, and collaboration. Such an authentic learning experience is invaluable as an instructional tool and will extend far beyond the school setting.”

This STEAM ARTS residency will address the NJ Core Content Curriculum Standards in science and the arts and promote the following 21st Century skills and core values: creative and critical thinking, collaboration, communication and negotiation, and intellectual curiosity. The instructional process will also focus on stewardship, responsibility, and respect for the environment as teachers at Zane North integrate lessons inspired by the rain garden, combining science, art and civic engagement.

Ricci Sheridan and Shannon DiMasi, parents at Zane North, are rallying parent volunteers, reflecting the strong community spirit at Zane North.  Zane North parents are currently raising funds to support the Rain Garden project and will join with Perkins Center for the Arts during the Collingswood Green Festival on April 21st to provide information about the project. For updates on the project visit zanenorthpta.org .

Perkins Center for the Arts receives support from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts/Department of State, a partner of the National Endowment for the Arts. Perkins Center has also received grants for this STEAM residency from RUTGERS University, in partnership with the Camden County Soil Conservation District  for Pollution Control and Management Implementation, NJDEP Division of Watershed Management and the Subaru Foundation.

[This is an update from Thomas Santo, principal of Zane North Elementary School. Zane North was awarded a 2010-2011 Sharing the Dream grant for its Through a Child’s Eyes project, featured in the Fall 2011/Winter 2012 Sharing the Dream School Newsletter.]

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Sharing the Dream

Grants for pre-K-8 school projects that create global classrooms where children—and families—can safely connect, exchange ideas and learn together.

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