2017—Northwest ISD Outdoor Learning Center

Northwest ISD—Outdoor Learning Center
Architect: Stantec

The District, committed to providing experiential learning for all students, invested in an outdoor learning center to serve up to 650 students a day on 193 acres. The site has ponds, woodlands, and wetlands with designed trails to offer opportunities for teaching and learning. New facilities include the “Great Hall” and three pavilions that can hold from 100 to 600 people. The Great Hall, as the main entry point, provides various sized indoor community, business, and district functions.


  • Design—Star of DistinctionGreat Hall welcomes visitors and is positioned for views to the vast horizon. Designed to be compartmentalized to support varying group sizes and activities
  • Large Pavilion provides large gathering space, with two smaller pavilions for small to medium sized groups
  • Pavilions and trails are strategically placed to maximize the experience of each ecological site condition


  • Value—Star of Distinction$680,000 savings annually on outdoor education that goes back into the classroom
  • Lower ownership and maintenance costs with sustainability savings
  • All students have access to the OLC versus only 5th graders previously
  • Hands-on teacher training
  • Curriculum control versus outsource cost of field trips and camps
  • Community value – available for community and business rental

Sustainability—Star of Distinction


  • Designed for LEED Silver certification
  • Preserves the natural environment with natural stone, galvanized metal, minimal parking, paving, and building footprint contained
  • Wind turbine and solar array provide teaching tools and energy savings


  • Vernacular architecture that is regional and site specific
  • Maintains a natural environment that is becoming suburban
  • Shared use: business community, weddings/receptions, residential community, summer camps


  • Worked with superintendent to cast a vision to the board and community
  • Led the administrative leadership, teachers, parents, business community, Texas Parks & Wildlife, and students to define the purpose of the center
  • Integrated curriculum planning for problem-based learning, real-world applications

School Transformation

  • Re-imagined the classroom as outside the boundaries of wall, brick, and mortar
  • Single campus serves all programs, all campuses, all students
  • Site tailored to outdoor learning activities through different zones
  • Laboratory for development of teachers in experiential teaching and learning models
  • Integrates physical activity into learning process

Stars of Distinction Star of Distinction Category Winner