Texas Tech University

Department of Design Graduate Student is Working with OLE! Texas to Design Outdoor Learning Environments Across the State

Matilda Beckanovic

August 18, 2022

Department of Design Graduate Student is Working with OLE! Texas to Design Outdoor Learning Environments Across the State

Environmental Design Student is working to design and construct Outdoor Learning Environments with the Texas Tech Coalition for Natural Learning

Elizabeth Perry is a graduate student in the Department of Design pursuing her master's in Environmental Design. Perry is a new member of the Texas Tech Coalition for Natural Learning (CNL) and is working to help conduct design workshops for childcare centers and assist in research. Outdoor Learning Environment (OLE!) Texas is a statewide initiative of the Texas Department of State Health Services that focuses on promoting healthful, natural-based outdoor spaces in early childcare education programs. 

“A multidisciplinary lens is applied to how the outdoors can enhance the lives of educators, children, and more,” Perry said. “In this process, the CNL travels to the childcare center and meets with educators, administrators, community members and more to create a schematic design, or rough draft, of the outdoor learning environment.”

The Texas Tech Coalition for Natural Learning strives to promote environments that create a greater connection with the natural world. The Coalition for Natural Learning is led up by Department of Design faculty member Kristi Gaines. Perry and her team's primary focus has been to facilitate workshops for OLE! Texas in Dallas, Austin, Houston, and more. Perry said that programs like OLE! Texas are incredibly important in many ways. 

“Having access to invigorating outdoor environments allows for greater socialization skills and brain development,” Perry said. “With a proper outdoor learning environment, the stress of finding creative ways to play and entertain is taken away from the caregiver.” 

Perry and her team work to design and build outdoor natural learning facilities to help improve educational and recreational opportunities using natural methods and approaches. She is able to use a collaborative mindset to work with others and bring creative ideas together. OLE! Texas has shown Perry the importance of teamwork as well as how beneficial it can be when you are working on big projects.

“One of the biggest takeaways from working on the OLE! Texas initiative has been the power of collaboration,” Perry said. “This is counterintuitive in the real world because you can't do everything on your own.” 

The Department of Design's award-winning faculty and staff works to help students learn the skills they will need out in the workforce. The faculty and their specialized expertise help students in the Environmental Design master's degree program to prepare them for challenges that they will face in their careers. Perry said she feels supported and encouraged by department leaders and those she works with for OLE! Texas. 

“The Department of Design works tirelessly to equip each student with the knowledge and tangible skills to have a successful career in design,” Perry said. “I've been able to take the skills learned through my design classes and apply those to helping with the OLE! Texas initiative.