Austin ISD is set to break ground Oct. 20 on a new districtwide outdoor habitat, science lab and classroom at AISD's Science and Health Resource Center next to Pleasant Hill Elementary School.
The new Demonstration Habitat will give Austin ISD students hands-on science education in an outdoor garden with plants and materials native to Central Texas, according to Anne Muller, outdoor learning specialist for AISD.
“We're building a lot of environmental- and sustainable-focused lessons into our curriculum, and the district itself has a large sustainability push where campuses are encouraged to create more sustainable grounds. Gardens and habitats are great for that,” she said. “It's a great model for what is possible on campuses … We really view it as an extension of the indoor classroom.”
At learning centers throughout the habitat, students can learn about ecosystems and participate in guided activities with their teachers, she explained. The site, which should be open by spring 2013, will be used for K-12 field trips as well as professional development for science teachers, she said. The new model habitat was developed by the district's science curriculum department, Environmental Survey Consulting and the National Wildlife Foundation.
Eighteen schoolyard habitats have been developed at Bailey, Bedichek, Burnet, Covington, Garcia, Fulmore, Gorzycki, Martin, Murchison, O. Henry, and Webb middle schools, as well as at Brooke, Dawson, Ortega, Paredes, Rodriguez, Widen and Zavala elementary schools during the past two years. AISD officials said the project received funding from the NWF, which got grants from the Toyota USA foundation, H-E-B and 3M.
Austin ISD, the NWF and community volunteers will break ground on the site at 9 a.m. Oct. 20 at 305 N. Bluff Drive.