At the end of the 2011-12 school year, Colfax Upper Elementary School was awarded a $20,000 grant from the Grable and Benedum Foundations to develop
a Living Classroom. The idea is to design, plant, and utilize an outdoor garden area to help students learn concepts in Science, Technology,
Engineering, Art, and Mathematics (STEAM).
Three components comprise the concept. First, Wildlife Sanctuaries will be developed to include a Butterfly Garden and Bird Refuge. Second, Sustainable
Solutions will incorporate student-built solar cells, composting, and rain collection systems. Third, the Outdoor Open Classroom will include
Art, Science, Engineering, and Mathematics Centers. Members of the Colfax staff developed a plan to not only plant a garden, but to utilize
solar energy; tag flora, fauna, and wildlife with QR codes that contain facts and figures about plants and animals; build tables that provide
students with places to learn and study, sketch and draw, chart and plan.
The Classroom incorporates all grade levels and all curricular areas. The entire project is infused with technology, utilizing iPads to document,
create digital journals, take photos, develop project designs, and complete research. Applications will be used for experiments and exploration.
The area, located on the corner of Colfax Street and Rosslyn Avenue, abides by the same rules and guidelines as all of the classrooms in the
building. All work to build the Living Classroom must be volunteer, so many hours have been put in after school and on weekends by staff, students,
parents, and members of the community.