The new Environmental Learning Center will be a public asset that supports greater understanding and appreciation of nature’s ecological systems and our relationship to them. The Center is located in Point Defiance Park, a 700-acre urban park surrounded on three sides by the waters of Puget Sound. Amenities in the park include the Zoo, gardens, beaches, trails and most notably, a stand of old growth forest.
The Environmental Learning Center is a partnership between Tacoma Public Schools and Metro Parks Tacoma to support education, sustainability and conservation. This joint-use facility is located on Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium grounds and features eight formal learning settings for SAMi and community use, communal space for collaborative and interpretive activities, planning/work space for SAMI and Zoo educators, coordination/work space for Zoo staff and volunteers, and a setting for a nature-oriented early learning experience.
SAMi, one of the building’s primary tenants, is a public high school within Tacoma Public Schools that partners closely with Metro Parks Tacoma and the Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium. Since its founding in 2009, SAMi has created a powerful community of learners that contributes to the public educational mission of Metro Parks and the Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium. Students and teachers engage with community partners through citizen scientist workshops, interpretive exhibits, and research with partners in the region while advancing the research and educational mission of the Park and Zoo.
The SAMi experience encourages a creative path of learning for every student that emphasizes human understanding and expression, seeking to educate the whole student through the values of Community, Empathy, Thinking and Balance. Sharing the space with Zoo staff and volunteers on a daily basis immediately expands the learning community for SAMi students beyond that of a typical high school.