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As the concern for quality public education In America continues to grow, parents, educators, and citizens seek alternative methods for meeting students' needs. My Intent for this design thesis project is to explore one such method: the placement of an educational facility In a non-traditional setting. Whether or not this method actually Improves public education is not the focus of my project; instead, the development and design of a facility that promotes learning, encourages conservation, enhances creative problem-solving and forward thinking, and integrates real world situations In an educational context is the focus of my thesis. The fulfillment of these conditions seems to be well-suited to a non-traditional setting, in this instance, a zoo. The facility will incorporate environmentally friendly materials and methods, energy efficient systems, and an innovative design that endorses the goals and objectives of the Association of Zoo and Aquariums and the mission statement of this zoo In particular.
The outcome of this project will be to create an educational facility and animal outreach program that will be used as a full-time alternative school for public school children. It will also be a resource center for educators, leaders of organized groups (such as boy/girl scouts,) families, church groups, and other parties Interested In opportunities to connect to nature. Overnight visits, Saturday and summer camps, field trips, pre-school and after school programs, animal encounter shows, nature workshops, birthday parties, and other such events will be projected uses for this facility. The design of the building will fit the context of the existing zoo structures but will also be one that excites visitors and emphasizes the message of care and concern for nature and wildlife. In addition to providing a place for people to learn and grow, this facility will house a small number of animals.
Of particular focus will be how architecture can be used to enhance the educational experience for students and zoo visitors and how architecture can be used to incorporate a school environment into a zoo setting. I plan to explore these two conditions through research, a literature review, interviews with educators, administrators, and zoologists, and site visits to the Henry Doorly Zoo and other zoos In the United States.
I am especially excited about this thesis project because of my past experience and education. A former teacher with over 15 years of classroom experience, I have some awareness of appropriate school design. Having worked as a zoo school teacher at the Fort Worth Zoo In Fort Worth, Texas for several years, I have learned much about animal conservation and Wildlife preservation. I understand ways in which zoo classrooms need to differ from traditional classroom settings. My educational background, including a Master's Degree in Education, has provided me with a deep knowledge base from which to draw for the development of the environmental, educational, and spatial needs for this project. It is my belief, therefore, that I can utilize my current expertise, past experience, and prior knowledge to design a facility that incorporates my three greatest passions: children, animals, and architecture. Through this project I hope to improve my design skills, increase my understanding of the design process, and advance my proficiency as an architect.