Sunday, January 27, 2013

NWF partners with AISD to create Demonstration Habitat/Outdoor Classroom

adapted from the NWF flyer on From Rocks to Roots...

Recently, the National Wildlife Federation launched an exciting project with the Austin Independent School District that will help make learning in the outdoors accessible to all students. NWF, with ongoing donation support, is creating a model wildlife habitat that will serve as an environmental education and training venue for thousands of children and teachers in Austin and central Texas. This project, affectionately called “From Rocks to Roots,” will completely rejuvenate a previously under-utilized quarter-acre site at AISD’s Science and Health Resource Center.

Like many urban school districts, the Austin Independent School District struggles to improve its students’ academic performance in science and math, particularly among ethnic minority and underserved students. According to the 2011 Nation’s Report Card for the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), 8th grade students from Austin ISD of White/Caucasian ethnicity scored 47 points higher than African American students, and 37 points higher than Hispanic students in Mathematics. Learning in the outdoors, where a student’s experience is hands-on and inquiry-based, draws students into these disciplines in a way textbooks and classroom exercises often do not.

Research over the past decade shows that Schoolyard Habitats support learning in three ways:
  • Achievement gaps are narrowed as student performance in math and science, particularly among ethnic minority and underserved students improves.
  • Students are better behaved and have higher self-esteem as they participate in outdoor education  and environmental programs.
  • Hands-on learning and student-led investigation leads to academic improvement and higher standardized test scores in reading, mathematics, science and problem solving.
Project plans include the installation of a wide variety of curriculum-connected learning stations, including native plants important to birds, butterflies, and other wildlife, a pond for wetland plants and native fish, a rain garden, observation benches, interpretive signs, and rain harvesting for water conservation. The ultimate goal is that the design elements of this model wildlife habitat will be easily replicable, and will inspire educators to build habitats on their own campuses to use as outdoor classrooms and advance science learning throughout central Texas.

Visit for more information.

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