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Neuhoff and kids

High School North interior design teacher Jenny Neuhoff (front center, right of chair) stands with her students in the space that's soon to become the OurSpace Courtyard thanks to a $10,000 grant from Sustainable Jersey for Schools.

OurSpace Courtyard Will Be School’s Second Outdoor Space

High School North has been named the recipient of a $10,000 grant from Sustainable Jersey for Schools for its proposal to construct the OurSpace Courtyard, a student-driven project that will overhaul the school’s existing courtyard and transform it into a space for students to cultivate and exhibit their design and life skills, promote art and inclusivity, and take a mental health break from the rigors of the school day.

The project will result in the school’s second Sustainable Jersey-supported outdoor space. In 2018, HSN earned a $10,000 grant to build a bio-diverse outdoor classroom with a stage called Setting the Stage for Outdoor Learning (SSOL). Both projects were awarded from grant cycles funded by the New Jersey Education Association (NJEA).

“I am proud of how our dedicated staff members tend to build–literally and figuratively–off each other’s ideas, and grateful to Sustainable Jersey for Schools and the NJEA for recognizing and supporting this collective innovation,” said High School North Principal Ed Keller. “Our school is better off because of this grant, our students are better served, and there’s a sense of excitement about where our students will take this.”

SusNJ awards

Pictured left to right, NJEA field representative Mike Rollins, High School North Principal Ed Keller, district grant writer Mike Kenny, TREA President Scott Campbell, and Sustainable Jersey for Schools Executive Director Randy Solomon celebrate the school's newly-funded courtyard project at an event May 9.

With this contribution NJEA has provided $1.75 million to support a sustainable future for children across the state through the Sustainable Jersey for Schools program. “This is an important program that directs resources into our schools and NJEA is proud to continue to work with Sustainable Jersey,” said NJEA President Sean Spiller. “When our students can learn, at an early age, that sustainable and healthy practices often go “hand in hand” with economic efficiencies, we all benefit from the positive changes. It is our job to help create a new generation of engaged citizens and leaders. We help ensure that we leave a better world for our students when we emphasize the value of sustainability.”

The OurSpace Courtyard is the vision of HSN teacher Jenny Neuhoff, who developed and submitted the application. Neuhoff, who teaches interior design, developed a multi-faceted and cross-curricular proposal.

“My students have been focusing on social-emotional health, and have been desperately seeking a space where they can connect with peers, de-stress, and get a few moments of Zen during their day,” Neuhoff said. “This project will allow them to develop their life skills in the classroom-- measuring, planning, and designing-- while using their interior and exterior artistic creativity, and ultimately creating that Zen space for themselves and future generations of students.” 

The idea was not only inspired by the school’s SSOL project, but also Intermediate South’s new grant-funded courtyard, which also seeks to promote mental health and which has beautified the school and impacted students and staff members alike. From a CTE standpoint, students need look no further for additional inspiration than across town at High School South, which hosts Project SPEAR-IT, another grant-funded initiative where students drive the program.

“It’s remarkable how our schools are able to forge and retain their identities while also being inspired by projects that meet our collective mission,” said Superintendent Mike Citta. “I’m very much looking forward to seeing where our students take this new courtyard, and how their work will inspire others. Thank you, Sustainable Jersey for Schools and NJEA, for this opportunity.”

Toms River Education Association President Scott Campbell endorsed the project proposal, which seeks to partner with the district’s special services department, Green Team, Arts Academy, and Ocean County-based PaverArt and New Design Landscaping. Among the OurSpace Courtyard’s objectives:

  • Repurpose the greenhouse to a sheltered seating area with a stained-glass style roof.
  • Install a butterfly garden to attract local pollinators.
  • Install a paver patio with engraved bricks to enhance the sustainability of the garden and its upkeep (anyone interested in donating a brick to support this effort can learn more here).
  • Install a sensory garden featuring windchimes, a solar-powered water feature, and other elements in collaboration with students receiving special services.
  • Work alongside Arts Academy students to paint murals along the building walls of the courtyard and install a sculpture garden.

The grant period is 18 months, but the project was underway even before the proposal was submitted, as Neuhoff’s interior design students had already taken measurements, brianstormed ideas, and submitted sketched blueprint plans for a vote among all classes.

garden design

The OurSpace Courtyard had been visualized by HSN students since the beginning of the school year.

“Sustainable Jersey is proud to support the work of each of these schools and school districts and to recognize the dedication of every applicant,” said Sustainable Jersey Executive Director Randall Solomon. “These creative projects are exceptional and will serve to accelerate school-centered sustainability programs as we head into a pivotal decade for climate action and sustainability in our state.” Proposals were judged by an independent Blue-Ribbon Selection Committee.

About Sustainable Jersey for Schools

Sustainable Jersey for Schools is a certification program for public schools in New Jersey. It was launched by Sustainable Jersey, an organization that provides tools, training and financial incentives to support and reward municipalities and schools as they pursue sustainability programs. To date, 1,050 schools are participating in the program. Visit the Participating Districts and Schools webpage to see the full list of participating and certified schools and school districts. Sustainable Jersey for Schools has awarded over $2.6 million in grants to schools and school districts. To learn more about Sustainable Jersey for Schools, visit:

About the New Jersey Education Association (NJEA)

NJEA is the state’s largest association of education professionals, representing over 200,000 elementary and secondary teachers, administrators, higher education faculty, educational support professionals, retirees, and students preparing to become teachers. To learn more about NJEA, visit


A rendering of what the OurSpace Courtyard will look like is already impressive, but the real things promises to be even better.

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