OLC provides students with one-of-a-kind learning experience
OLC provides students with one-of-a-kind learning experience
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Schluter students plant a tree at the OLC

Many subjects lend themselves naturally to textbook- or computer-facilitated learning. For nature, however, sometimes the best method of learning is engrossing yourself in the outdoors.

Students are learning that firsthand at Northwest ISD’s newly renovated Outdoor Learning Center, which now features several buildings and trails designed to facilitate new vantage points of nature. The facility, which is composed of five buildings on 193 acres in Northlake, reopened for the 2016-17 academic year with a plan to foster unique learning experiences not found anywhere else.

Led by Amy Hollenshead, OLC coordinator, classes visit the facility to expand on their classroom-based learning with actual experiences in nature. The facility features a pavilion that extends over a pond, a pavilion peering into Denton Creek that shows the area’s historic erosion, noninvasive roaming animals – such as deer and turtles – and other noteworthy learning experiences for visitors.

“We have a 10-year plan for the OLC that’s designed to grow with our students,” Ms. Hollenshead said. “So we’re developing curriculum right now for kindergarten students who we plan to have a unique experience every grade they’re at Northwest ISD. We’ll hopefully expand our staff and provide even more unique uses for our facility going forward.”

Prior to its renovation, the OLC provided curated outdoor environments, but little in the way of structures to benefit student learning and limited areas and trails designed solely for students.


 
“We couldn’t do stuff like learning about plants and animals like that at school, because we’d have to search for them on the internet and not actually get to see and feel them.”
 
BLAIR CLARK, SCHLUTER FOURTH-GRADER
 

Schluter Elementary students visited the OLC in early November for the school’s annual celebration of its namesake, Carl E. Schluter, finding new ways to learn about him through nature. Mr. Schluter was an agriculture and physics teacher at Northwest High School who majored in agricultural engineering at Texas A&M University, providing the perfect background for the school to teach several environmental lessons at the OLC.

“We learned about different animals like pigs, goats, cows and chickens,” said Blair Clark, a fourth-grader at Schluter. “I learned Carl Schluter liked growing crops, so we also learned about plants and things like that. It was really fun learning and being outside at the same time. We couldn’t do stuff like learning about plants and animals like that at school, because we’d have to search for them on the internet and not actually get to see and feel them.”

Examples of some of the educational experiences at the OLC offered at Schluter Day, the school’s annual celebration, include planting sunflowers and trees, learning about pollination from live plants, studying wildlife in person, and exploring pond ecosystems.

Ms. Hollenshead said students will continue to see and interact with nature regularly at the OLC, with class visits scheduled for almost every day until the end of the school year, save for the few days she uses to further develop curriculum.

“I feel like we’re just getting started after all the improvements made here,” she said. “Students and teachers are just now getting used to everything new at the OLC, and I want them to always have new experiences there’s no way they could get in a classroom or another facility each time they visit us.”

VISIT THE OLC'S WEBSITE
For more information about the OLC, visit its website at olc.nisdtx.org.