In Woodbridge Township Education Association (Middlesex County), a team of teachers from Woodbridge Township was awarded a $10,000 grant to engage all members of the community by providing a learning environment that fosters interdependence, embraces change, and values diversity. The team includes Fords Middle School educators Candice Kenney, Charles Aria, Mark Poiani, Eric Borg, Sara Mankoski, Carly Evangelista and Lisa Kwiatkowski.
Students learn best by doing, tinkering, and playing. The Nature-Based Resource Center combines in-class instruction with hands-on learning outside the classroom. The Center is installed in a wooded area adjacent to the physical building. A concrete walkway connects the Center and school so that it is handicapped accessible.
Once the workspace is completed, the project team beautifies the space by installing garden beds, a rain barrel, native flowers and plants, and birdhouses. Each gardening bed is used for both spring and fall plantings. Students harvest fruits and vegetables to share with families or donate to local food banks.
The project team hosts professional development workshops for colleagues on how to best integrate the Center into curricula. The middle school also works with the Boy Scouts to complete the project. The local municipality helps sustain the Center and the Division of Parks helps maintain garden supplies and programming.
After-school and weekend events allow the community to participate in the Center.
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