The PRHS Outdoor Learning Center


The layout of the Outdoor Learning Lab Plans provided by Leslie Lantz. Photo taken by Hannah Miller.

“It is designed to provide a place for students to engage with the content of all kinds of different classes.”

That is the dream of Leslie Lantz regarding the new Outdoor Learning Lab being implemented on the campus of Palmer Ridge High School in the next few school years. Lantz, a high school science teacher, NHS advisor, and Science Olympiad advisor for PRHS, has put a lot of time and effort into making this dream a reality. With the help of other faculty, the Outdoor Learning Lab has slowly morphed from pure imagination to concrete plans on a blueprint. After staring at an abandoned playground for five years, Lantz decided this was the year to make the space usable, and being the nature lover she is, decided the best way to use the space would be to create somewhere for students to go to learn in a different environment.

While the science classes will ultimately have the most use for the space, Lantz has stressed that all classes will be able to use the space in a different way. “The data that we pull out of this lab will let math do the data analysis for it.” The space will also allow for the different world languages to engage their learned vocabulary to talk about the space and for special education to explore and take care of the garden. The goal for this space is to “go outside and see the actual application of what you are learning.” said Lantz.

A pencil sketch of the Outdoor Learning Lab. Provided by Leslie Lantz. Photo taken by Hannah Miller

However, the ability for classes to be involved does not just lie in the future. Currently, multiple classes are already taking advantage of the benefits of the space, helping with the brainstorming and creation of the lab itself. According to Lantz, her AP Environmental Science class is researching different types of plants native to Colorado, the marketing classes are beginning to advertise and promote, and the art classes are brainstorming a donor’s art wall. However, two classes play a crucial role in the development of the lab, woodworking and construction, who are building and designing greenhouses, outdoor seating and raised planter boxes, and engineering. “Engineering is designing a stream table out there, like how it’s going to work with pneumatics. It is not just a table, it needs to tilt and rotate to model different water movements.” said Lantz. To help even more, Lantz has called on the calvary in addition to the aid District-38 has provided, Lantz has also received the help of two major universities. “The Education Department of UCCS is helping us write grants, the CSU Masters of Gardeners Program is going to advise us on what species to plant out there. We have big university connections there, so I think that is super exciting.”

The parts of the foundation from the old playground have remained, the base going to be re-purposed into an area for physics labs to take place, with up to seating for thirty plus students made out of old logs. The area beyond however, is going to feature a xeriscape garden and greenhouses, including raised planter boxes. One fun addition to the garden, an Easter egg of sorts, is a winding pathway forming the letters PR.

With this new learning lab, students will have the ability to further their learning in a different way, and under the guidance of Lantz, there is no doubt that students will have the chance to do just that.