Outdoor Learning Center

  • area / size 45,570 sqft
  • Completed 2016
  • Stantec has completed the design for the Northwest Independent School District’s Outdoor Learning Center located in Northlake, Texas.

    Through field trips and overnight camps, outdoor education has long been an area where educators have introduced the sciences to students at an early age—but providing this opportunity for students in a rapidly growing district can be a challenge.

    Due to the rising cost of outsourcing its outdoor education, Northwest Independent School District decided to invest in rehabilitating an abandoned ranch, located adjacent to a large creek, to create a district-wide Outdoor Learning Center (OLC) that can serve up to 650 students per day.

    The campus reimagines the classroom as outside the boundaries of wall, brick, and mortar. Located right in the heart of the district, the 193-acre site comprises four distinct ecological zones—prairie, wetland, woodland, and creek—each one offering endless learning opportunities in a stimulating and motivating outdoor setting.

    New facilities include the Great Hall, which serves as the main campus entry point and features a wraparound deck for viewing the natural surroundings, a full catering kitchen, and a large indoor/outdoor fireplace that visitors can enjoy during the cooler months. The only closed, indoor facility at the OLC, the Great Hall can be used as one large space or divided into four medium-sized project/meeting rooms. Although this space will accommodate various medium to large community, business, and district functions, its primary purpose is to support teaching and learning at the center.

    In addition to the Great Hall is a large, outdoor gathering pavilion that can support up to 600 people. It serves as an educational and dining space for the students and can accommodate catering and stage activities for events, receptions, and weddings. Additional features include a large fireplace, a communal gathering patio, and a courtyard.

    The center also includes several designed trails to experience the different ecological zones, with two 100-person learning pavilions located at significant trail intersections. The Great Hall and pavilions all have WiFi capability.

    Architect and Structural EngineerStantec
    Design Team: Terry Hoyle, Chad Martin, Dan Fletcher, Mike Elmore, Alex Zulas Castellanos, Gwen Morgan, Al Hernandez, John Forasiepi, Chas Stewart, Scott Soule
    Photography: Terry Wier