Outdoor learning space with labyrinth, easels, instruments coming next
By Karen Chaney
School days at K.B. Polk Center for Academically Talented and Gifted are spent preparing for the future. On a recent spring Thursday, that meant planting 57 trees to bring cooler tomorrows.
The work of the Texas Trees Foundation’s Cool Schools Program and contributions from Amazon will also bring a new outdoor learning space this summer to the campus near Dallas Love Field.
Cool Schools education coordinator Lindsay Hoot explained how a Cool School transformation begins with a certified urban forester touring the campus and taking an inventory of the trees.
“This allows us to measure the current tree canopy coverage and provides insight into how many trees we will need to plant to raise the coverage to at least 30%,” Hoot said.
Foundation staff also works with campus leaders to decide the best location for an educational arboretum and areas in need of shade, such as near a playground or sidewalks.
Polk TAG Center’s Green Team of teachers and staff selected art easels, musical instruments, a labyrinth, and a grassy berm to include in the outdoor learning space.
“With these new additions, students will have opportunities to interact with the environment while learning about it,” Hoot said. “Nature might inspire them to create a song using the musical instruments, or a painting with the art easels.”
Hoot added that the outdoor learning area would also provide teachers with a space to take students to reflect and self-regulate from any challenges they might face at home or school.
Nature might inspire them to create a song using the musical instruments, or a painting with the art easels.Lindsay Hoot
“As a school, we have long considered this opportunity and wanted to include this feature to our campus for some time now,” Principal Kourtnei Jackson said. “Through our research, we took the opportunity to visit campuses already participating in the program to learn of their experiences. We fell in love with what we saw and sincerely believed in what this could mean for Polk.”
The Cool Schools Program supplies teachers with resources to educate students about urban forestry and environmental stewardship.
“Fun and engaging activities specific to the trees and outdoor learning amenities on their campus connect students to nature, allowing them to learn about urban forestry and the impact trees have on their community,” Hoot said.
The Cool Schools Program is made possible through the support of Dallas ISD and the City of Dallas.
“We are grateful for the partnership we have with the City of Dallas, who works closely with the Texas Trees Foundation to provide the trees we plant through the mitigation fund,” Hoot said. “In addition to supporting our efforts to plant on their land, we appreciate our partnership with Dallas ISD, who helps us promote environmental experiences and educational opportunities for teachers and students.”
Jackson said the Polk community would benefit from this initiative because the space will be elaborate, detailed, and robust.
Educators are looking forward to students walking the labyrinth trail and enjoying the SEL (Social and Emotional Learning) experiences, the principal said. “The goal for our outdoor spaces is to be a place of peace, serenity, and pride.”