By Anita Oh

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — “A couple of years ago, there was nothing here. It was an asphalt lot.”

As Michael Burlando knows, there wasn’t always so much activity outside of the Chester Arthur School in Philadelphia’s Graduate Hospital neighborhood.

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But now, thanks to Burlando and many other organizers, the playground on Catharine Street is becoming a training ground.

“It is a reason to celebrate,” Superintendent Dr. William Hite told the crowd at a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Friday.

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The Friends of Chester Arthur School Education Foundation, the School District of Philadelphia, the Philadelphia Water Department, and others unveiled the $1.7 million project, which is now the largest public green space in Graduate Hospital.

“Whether it’s my kids or kids in the neighborhood, everyone deserves it,” Burlando said. “It just means a lot to me and it’s going to be awesome to see my girls out here in a few years too.”

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The space is the new home of the Arthur Schoolyard, the city’s first outdoor learning environment focused on STEM education.

“I feel good about it! That it’s helping our community feel better,” said second grader London Timmons.

The schoolyard focuses on four different learning labs: Systems, Energy, Motion, and Habitat.

It includes sensory walls for children with disabilities and garden beds to teach children about sustainability.

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“At my mom’s house, we’ll plant plants and she said one day, I have to get better at it,” said second grader Isaiah Moore.

Now, Moore will have a chance to, while other students say the space has opened their eyes to a future career.

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“I want to be a STEM teacher,” Timmons said.