As Bartle students and staff finished out the school year, they expressed great enthusiasm for their new outdoor learning environment, but still felt a bit of sadness that they would have to wait until September to visit once again their newly created “oasis.” The Bartle Elementary School Courtyard – accessible only from the building – has been transformed into an oasis of learning and reflection.
Through generous supporters such as the NJEA HIPP Foundation, the Highland Park Education Foundation, the Highland Park Department of Public Works, Bartle P.T.O., DonorsChoose.org, Lowes, private donors, teachers, parents, students, Highland Park community volunteers, and the New Jersey Sustainability Project, the bland, weedy, overgrown courtyard is now a place that teachers and students can feel good about visiting.
The Outdoor Learnscape, as it is named, has already been used as a pumpkin patch, a place for lessons and lunch, and a calming area. The Bartle School community can play chess/checkers and tic-tac-toe in the play area, try their talents on the PVC pipe musical instrument designed by students, taste the herbs in the herb garden, relax near the Zen Garden, read in the park area, participate in instruction in the paved, bench area, explore and discover insects and wildlife, eat lunch at a shady picnic table, or enjoy the many native New Jersey plants the courtyard has to offer.
Students are thrilled with this new learning space. On May 20, 2016, the courtyard celebrated the official grand opening in a community ribbon cutting ceremony. One second grade student called it a “fairyland.”
Lily Solomon, a third grader, said, “I like the courtyard. It’s a good place for learning, because it’s peaceful and no one will disturb you. There are a lot of different places to enjoy, like the sandbox, the banners with student artwork and garden quotes you can read.”
The Garden Team – consisting of Mr. Anthony Benjamin, Bartle Principal, Rachel Pasichow, Nikki Gonzalez, Meredith Carman, Kim Crane, Irene Marx and Jewel Seroka – made this initiative happen. The Outdoor Learnscape was awarded recognition for this project at the 2015 New Jersey Education Association Convention!