Fourth grader Arturo Acosta Navarro is making a mark on his school.

A new outdoor learning lab will be built at Trinity Basin Preparatory Pafford Campus, 101 W. Pafford St. Adults from Out Teach, a national nonprofit that builds outdoor classrooms in low-income schools, will construct it, but the design is all Arturo’s.

Principal Erika Olivas explained Arturo won a contest to design one of the school’s outdoor learning labs. Teachers designed the other. That ownership is important to build community, she said.

“This is not my campus. It’s our community. It’s the teacher’s campus. It’s the kids’ campus,” Olivas said of the charter school.

Arturo spent three days working on his design. He crafted construction paper into buildings and shaped clay into people. He drew his school grounds — stop signs included — on a foam poster board. Then, he glued toy cars and plants to the poster.

He thought about what students and teachers needed. 

Everyone has a computer so he ensured his garden had a spot where everyone can set their laptop down, he said in Spanish to Olivas, who translated. 

Trinity Basin Preparatory Pafford Campus student Arturo Acosta Navarro’s design for his school’s new outdoor learning lab sits on top of a table on March 23, 2023. (Jacob Sanchez | Fort Worth Report)

He also made sure to include plenty of benches under shade so teachers have a place to sit.

And, of course, Arturo made sure to include a chalkboard. Teachers need to be able to jot things down when their classes are outside.

Trinity Basin Preparatory middle school students voted for Arturo’s outdoor lab. Olivas revealed the results to Arturo.

“When we told him he was the winner, he was like, ‘I didn’t sleep for three nights. I can’t believe I won.’ He was very excited,” Olivas said.

Sammy Wren, a senior project associate with Out Teach, knows firsthand how important it is to give students the chance to learn by being outside. 

Wren grew up in rural Oklahoma where he spent his fair share going to lakes and playing in the dirt. But when he started teaching in Grand Prairie ISD, he realized on a field trip to Possum Kingdom Lake that so many students didn’t have the same opportunities.

“I’m passionate about giving the students the opportunities that a lot of y’all had that maybe your students don’t have to get outside, have some hands-on learning and make it meaningful to them,” Wren told a group of teachers.

Arturo just started his first year at Trinity Basin, but students for classes to come will thank him for their experience learning in a new way.

Sammy Wren, a senior project associate with Out Teach, presents blueprints for new outdoor learning labs at Trinity Basin Preparatory Pafford Campus on March 23, 2023. (Jacob Sanchez | Fort Worth Report)

Jacob Sanchez is an enterprise journalist for the Fort Worth Report. Contact him at or via Twitter. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.

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Jacob Sanchez is an enterprise reporter for the Fort Worth Report. His work has appeared in the Temple Daily Telegram, The Texas Tribune and the Texas Observer. He is a graduate of St. Edward’s University....