"It makes my heart sing to know you have discovered
the pleasure of planting and watching native plants, grasses
and trees grow
I wish every school child could have
your 'outdoor classroom' experience."
to students and teachers at Gililland Elementary School
Gililland Elementary School
is located in the community of Blue Mound, Texas, just west of Fort Worth. Many of the parents
of children at the school work at nearby Composite Technologies, Inc. - a construction materials
manufacturing plant that is a subsidiary of W.R. Grace. Adjacent to the plant and also owned
by the company was a 28-acre parcel of land with a creek running through it, which had been used
for years as an unofficial dumping ground. Neiman Environments, Inc. was hired in 1991 to clean
up the land and restore it with native wildflowers, grasses and trees. Right from the beginning,
we saw the opportunities for the restored site to become a centerpiece of community activity and
environmental education. Bill Neiman of NEI and Bob Deskin of Composite talked to teachers and
administrators at the school, which is just a few minutes' walk away, and invited them
to participate and use the facility as an outdoor learning center.
Ten years later, with
the ongoing support of Composite Technologies and a grant from
the Rainwater Foundation in Fort Worth, the "Prairie Project" as it is known, continues to be a model
of how outdoor spaces can be used to teach children not just about botany and biology,
but everything from mathmatics to literature to history and more.
pictures from the Prairie Project.
One of the first teachers
we met in the Gililland project is Jane Weaver, who teaches fifth-graders at
Gililland Elementary. Each year, in addition to participating in the annual tree planting
and open house events on the Prairie Project land, Mrs. Weaver's classes take field trips to even more wide-open spaces, including the Mitchell Ranch near Cresson, Texas.
Mitchell Ranch offers an extraordinary variety of educational opportunities, from identifying native plants to learning about how beef cattle can be raised in an environmentally
pictures from a recent field trip to Mitchell Ranch.