A Giraffe Ate My Homework! Designing for Adventure Education in Omaha’s Zoo School


Vanessa Schutte AIA, DLR Group

Elizabeth Mulkerrin Ed.D. Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium

Mark Brim AIA, DLR Group; Penny Ramsey,

LU:  1

Learning Units (LU)

How applies to HSW:


In a world filled with technology, Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium Education Center offers a space for students to connect with the natural world, providing opportunities for ‘adventure education’ that enhance their understanding of and relationship with the animals and ecosystems around them. Offering full-time high school, preschool and kindergarten classes for up to 220 students, the Education Building exemplifies the Zoo’s education mission to enhance the public knowledge in all areas relating to the natural world. Distractions are encouraged, and come not from smart phones, but from the sounds and movements of nearby animals. Panelists will discuss how the school at the zoo was created through district, community, and business partnerships, and what active learning looks like on zoo grounds.

Learning Objectives:

  • Learn what active learning looks like in nature. Review design of spaces that allow themselves to integrate in the natural world.
  • Hear the definition of “Nature Deficiency” and how to address it.
  • Review successful examples of flexible spaces that can be opened to nature and maintain a contact with it through glass doors and walls
  • Discover Learning Environments that are sensitive to Nature.

Primary Competency:

Design of Educational Facilities: Acts as a resource to the design team in providing ongoing guidance and support to ensure that the emerging and ultimate design aligns with the established community vision, education goals, future programming, written design standards, best/next practices and education policy.

Primary Domain:

Context: Content of this session/workshop will focus on the circumstances that form the setting for the design and construction of specific learning environments and characteristics that distinguishes the project from other applications.

Secondary Domain:

Learning: Content of this session/workshop will focus on how we learn and/or how the physical environment responds specifically to various methods of instruction, pedagogies, learning styles, or learning trends.