A Joint Effort of Common Ground's Schoolyards Program, Teaching Our Cities, and Urban Public K-12 Schools Across the Northeast

  • What does it look like when students' learning is rooted in the urban ENVIRONMENT -- in the schoolyards and neighborhoods that surround our urban public schools?
  • As they explore the local environment, how do we hold students to high EXPECTATIONS -- leading to mastery of challenging academic standards?
  • What are the EXHIBITIONS -- real products, performances, and work for real audiences -- that help students stretch toward and reach these high expectations?
  • What EXPERIENCES -- in the urban environment and in the classroom -- scaffold students' progress toward these expectations and exhibitions? 

Below, you can explore answers to these questions -- a collection of projects, developed by educators at urban public schools serving grades K-12, all rooted in urban environmental issues and helping students grow into powerful environmental stewards. These projects were developed and documented between 2019 and 2021, with support from Teaching Our Cities and Common Ground's Schoolyards Program. Support from the Environmental Protection Agency allowed teams from these schools to work together, learn from each other, and expand the ways they use their schoolyards and cities as extensions of their classrooms. Thanks also to Audubon Connecticut, the Green Schools National Network, Akiima Price, and Solar One for their contributions to this project.  

Project Design Framework: The 4 Es

This project planning framework aims to root learning in the ENVIRONMENT, challenge and support students to reach high and clear EXPECTATIONS, culminate in real EXHIBITIONS for real audience, and scaffold student learning through EXPERIENCES in and beyond the classroom.

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Nature and Society - Environmental Justice in Rhode Island

This 6 week long, 10th grade interdisciplinary project takes place between three core classes: US History/Civics, Chemistry, and English Language Arts. Students examine issues of environmental justice in Rhode Island as they grapple with the state’s ecological past, human growth and development, and the state of affairs today.

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The Science of our Habitat Mural

In this project, Bishop Woods students design and paint a Life Underground mural in their schoolyard.

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School Yard Habitat Revitalization

At Edgewood School we have a large garden and schoolyard habitat. However, the soil in our schoolyard keeps eroding away! In this project, we engaged students in improving our schoolyard habitat and in figuring out how to reduce the erosion. Students planted, pruned, mulched, engineered, and even tasted new vegetables!

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Ithaca Is Solarpunk

10th graders at New Roots School re-imagine Ithaca, New York as a Solarpunk city -- where humanity has succeeded in solving major contemporary challenges, nature and humans are integrated, and technology is used in ways that put humans and the environment at the center.

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What in the Web?

Fifth grade students learned about the food web in Barnard's Schoolyard Habitat, researched the food web in another ecosystem, and presented their food web to Kindergarten students.

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As part of an overarching goal to improve the Outdoor Learning Program at Bishop Woods, this 8th grade unit focuses on green infrastructure and soil quality

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Creating a Community Friendly School Garden

Students are working on improving our school garden habitat to make it more friendly to wildlife and to community members. The aim is an interactive garden that includes an informational kiosk, informational posts, native perennials, a walking path, a book lending box, seating, and bird and bee homes.

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Outdoor Day

Bishop Woods created an Outdoor Day to build stewardship of the school grounds with various stations and activities.

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A School, on a Farm, in a Forest, in a City

The name of this unit, experienced by all 9th graders are part of Common Ground's Core 9 curriculum, is a short description of the school: A School, On a Farm, In the Forest, In the City. The goal of this unit is to highlight the fascinating hidden complexity of both the exceptional and the mundane features of this unique site.

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Little Free Environmental Libraries

This project turns reclaimed newspaper stands into little free libraries -- providing environmental learning materials, reused books, and garden seeds to members of the community. The creation and stewardship of the libraries is an opportunity for interdisciplinary learning by high school students at Waterbury Career Academy.

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Environmental Education with an ABAR Anchor

Elm City Montessori School engaged their students in projects to learn about their environment and community rooted in an anti-bias anti-racist framework.

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