Katy ISD Outdoor Learning Center Wins Summit Architectural Award

Located in the heart of a quiet wooded area, just west of the Leonard Merrell Center, Katy ISD’s Kenneth D. Welch Outdoor Learning Center (OLC) was recently honored with the Summit Architectural Award from the Association for Learning Environments (A4LE).

The A4LE Design Awards program is known for recognizing learning projects that positively impact teaching and learning and come to fruition through a sound planning process that focuses on the needs and expectations of the community.  The OLC took the top spot after competing against numerous developments in the Southern Region of the United States, which included projects in Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Texas.  The Katy ISD Facilities team was also recognized for this accomplishment during the April Board of Trustees meeting.

As Katy ISD continues to grow, so does the OLC’s popularity.  Recent events, including the well-attended Folk Life Festival, have attracted hundreds of visitors to the educational facility to enjoy the walking trails, cabin-like science centers, outdoor activity areas and the pond, among other amenities.

“In 2017, voters approved funds to renovate the Outdoor Learning Center.  Katy ISD’s vision focused on preserving the Center’s natural resources and its pioneer-living character while adding collaborative spaces and other amenities that would provide unparalleled learning experiences,” said Lisa Kassman, Executive Director of Facilities, Planning and Construction in Katy ISD.  “Katy ISD teamed up with Stantec Architects to create a historical, hands-on facility that supports the needs of the 21st-century learners,” added Kassman.

With stakeholder support and interest in the project, the District and the design team created a broad-ranging subcommittee that included District leadership, teachers, curriculum leads, student leaders, design team members, parents and OLC administrators – as well as the distinguished OLC namesake, Kenneth Welch.  After multiple sessions of intense work, the design team unveiled detailed renderings of the proposed facility.

Since opening its doors in 1982, the OLC has offered instructional opportunities that enrich and extend the District’s science, social studies and physical education curriculum in a unique and stimulating learning environment outside of the traditional classroom.  Throughout the years, the OLC continues to offer the popular “adaptation” field trips, where students learn about Texas wildlife and history.  OLC also offers recreational and educational opportunities for K-12 students, community members and scout groups, including a variety of summer recreation programs for children in the community.