Environmental Learning Center (SAMI)


News & Updates

A+ for Environmental Learning Center 

The Environmental Learning Center recently took home a Grand Prize Award from Learning by Design, an education design publication.

Judges appreciated the collaboration between Tacoma Public Schools and Metro Parks Tacoma, which resulted in the new building next to the Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium.

"The project has successfully responded to this partnership, and to the educational goals, through the eight formal learning settings and informal spaces for indoor/outdoor learning/collaboration, experimentation and demo," judges commented. "The materials and use of daylight and siting certainly bring environmental learning, and a feel for the 'canopy' concept, into the building."

The building serves SAMI students, zoo staff and community programs. Tacoma's McGranahan Architects designed the building, which was funded by a $500 million school construction bond approved by voters in 2013.

If you missed the January grand opening event . . . 

Owls and starfish and robots – oh my! Wildlife and robotics made the perfect combo to show what goes on in the new Environmental Learning Center, the building next to Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium that serves as a home base for SAMi students and zoo staff. On Jan. 27, people from across Tacoma celebrated the building and the partnership between Tacoma Public Schools and Metro Parks Tacoma that helped make it happen. 

The Environmental Learning Center is one of 14 schools being built, remodeled or replaced thanks to a $500 million bond issue voters approved in 2013. Thank you, Tacoma voters!


What does a school day look like for SAMi students?

Check out SAMi (Science and Math Institute) students talking about their new building. Then, get a glimpse at a day in the life of a SAMi student.


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About the Project

Project overview

This innovative Environmental Learning Center will feature eight SAMI classrooms, including two science labs, plus administrative space, an early learning center, and space for zoo staff and volunteers. This project is a partnership between Tacoma Public Schools and Metro Parks Tacoma.

Square footage: 30,100
Total projected cost: $19.7 million
Percent complete: 100% 
Open date: Oct. 2, 2017
Architect: McGranahan Architects
Contractor: Forma Construction

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