To see the synthesis of STEAM and environmental education, you need only to wander outside to The Branch School’s Outdoor Classroom. Project work fuses science and math exploration in concrete, hands-on ways, building observational skills, measurement and math acuity, and critical thinking prowess to foster a deeper understanding of ecosystems and the natural world.
From planting bulbs to documenting life cycles to counting birds and butterflies to gauge the effects of climate change on at-risk species, the Outdoor Classroom opens a world of learning to students that just can’t be found in a textbook.
The Branch School is a leader in environmental education in Houston, and we’ve been honored to share our curriculum with many other schools. We hold important and reciprocal relationships with the Houston Audubon Society, Urban Harvest, and the Jane Goodall Institute and have benefited from a series of grants from foundations that recognize our unique and comprehensive approach. The Branch School is certified by Texas Parks & Wildlife as a Texas Wildscapes Wildlife Habitat Demonstration site. The time our students spend in our Outdoor Classroom cultivates respect for the environment and teaches children how they can care for our world.
Students raise caterpillars as they study the butterfly’s life cycle. They research the plants that butterflies eat, present reports to one another, and advocate for particular plants to be added to the garden.
Classes plant vegetables, eventually producing carrots, onions, and lettuce while simultaneously studying how farmers get crops to market and how markets deliver produce to our dinner tables.
Our youngest students head to the garden monthly for hunting expeditions, to count the different colors and varieties of the flowers they see. They study how the garden changes through the year, from bare branch to bud to bloom. They learn to point, not pick, the flowers and study how the garden serves as food for insects and other garden visitors.
Nature studies have always been a part of a Branch School education. They provide a hands-on way for students to use their math and science observation skills. They absolutely support book learning.
Our Outdoor Classroom is known in our community. We've presented and shared valuable curriculum with many other schools. Over the years we've developed important and reciprocal relationships with the Houston Audubon Society, Urban Harvest, and the Jane Goodall Institute, as well as foundations, through our conservation efforts.