On a recent warm, sunny afternoon, Allison Park Elementary School students darted among more than a dozen stations set up in a grassy area outside, adjacent to the library, eager to sample the activities.

Some ran to the Sound Station, a musical wall composed of wood and metal recyclable items that students strike to produce sounds, while others plunged their hands into the sensory centers, two painted flower boxes that contain tubs filled with feathers, rocks and other objects that allow students to explore different feels and senses.

Still others showcased their talents on the new outdoor stage, where students read poetry and played musical instruments.

The activities were part of the unveiling of the school’s outdoor makerspace classroom, which opened May 16.

The Chartiers-Houston elementary school received $5,000 in grants from the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation, Chevron Corp and Intermediate Unit 1.

The grants were awarded to promote STEAM – Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Manufacturing.

A makerspace is a thinking playground that can incorporate activities such as robotics, construction, coding and agriculture. While makerspaces are fun and engaging, they also help students grasp difficult concepts in STEAM.

The outdoor classroom also includes a STEAM shed filled with bins that contain STEAM activities and garden tools, planters in which students plant and grow strawberries, kale and other vegetables and fruit; a rain barrel that catches rain water and will be used to water flowers and vegetables; a book nook; a pole and signs with the word “hello” in different languages posted throughout the space.

“Using the STEAM boxes in the shed will help with simple patterns, math, science, problem-solving, sharing and working as a team. Traveling to various stations in small groups teaches basic social skills, as well as learning how to work together with your peers,” said teacher Anastasia Rameas-Michael, who spearheaded the STEAM project.

Rameas-Michael also pointed out a rainbow rock garden, where every student decorated a painted rock to accompany a story, “Only One You,” that an Allison Park Elementary School Girl Scout troop read and uploaded so students can access it on cellphones or computers.

Since its opening, the outdoor classroom has been used frequently, including by a class for a butterfly release, and the kindergarten class worked outside with color, letters, shapes and numbers.

Said principal Annette Caruso, “The whole place has been transformed.”

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