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Ecological Success Through Education

KIRK EVANS TEACHES A HANDS-ON APPROACH TO ECOLOGY AND LEADS HIS CHARGES ON EXCITING ADVENTURES TO LEARN MORE ABOUT NATURE AND ITS CONNECTION TO ENGINEERING DESIGN.

It’s the first day of Fall and the summer heat is finally starting to fade in Allen, Texas. There’s a cool breeze in the air, and avid outdoorsman Kirk Evans is conducting a nature walk at the Allen ISD STEAM center.

“Look at this seed pod,” he tells a group of fifth grade students. “How many seeds do you see in my hand? How many more seed pods do you see across this meadow? How many hundreds or thousands of seeds do you think naturally fall?”

By incorporating math and science in such a natural way to his lesson, the students are engaged in learning and are eager for more.

This hands-on approach to ecology has been a cornerstone of Evans’ career. An Allen ISD alumnus, Kirk talked at length about his idyllic childhood growing up in Lucas, and attending school with children of school namesakes such as Mary Evans and Jim Kerr.

A lifetime of spending time outdoors on a farm in Lucas while he was a student in Allen ISD led to a great appreciation for nature and ecology.

“I spent my whole life outdoors,” Evans said. “I’ve always loved being outside.” That love of nature, and a little prompting from his older brother during his time at Texas Tech University caused Evans to pursue a Bachelor’s degree in recreation, a fairly new degree at the time.

That degree led to a more than 25-year career educating youth, primarily through nature, outdoor activity and ecology.

Upon completion of his undergraduate degree, Evans had the opportunity to work in outdoor education as the Youth Director at the Pines Camp, and later with Houston ISD’s Outdoor Education Program, before moving into more adventure-based education with the company Adventure Experiences.

“My time with Adventure Experiences is where I learned how to educate,” said Evans. “It was hands-on and experiential.”

He returned to North Texas in 2001, now a certified teacher with a Masters degree in Special Education. After one year in Richardson ISD, Evans returned home to Allen ISD and has been here ever since.

Evans taught 5th grade science at three different AISD elementary schools,

Norton, Olson and Boyd where he revitalized curriculum by incorporating ecology and a critical study of the native local terrain - the Blackland Prairie.

In 2006, Evans was awarded his first grant from the Foundation For Allen Schools called, “The EcoLiteracy Project.” Through this project he started EarthFest, a community fair celebrating nature, health and education, in partnership with the City of Allen. Evans continued to be awarded grants over the next ten years for ecological literacy in education.

Evans joined the Allen ISD STEAM Center when the facility opened its doors for the 2018-2019 school year as the K-8 Instructional Specialist. The following year he was named the K-8 Learning Facilitator, a position he calls “a dream job.”

Through rotations during the course of the school year, Evans has the opportunity to teach every student in Allen ISD in Kindergarten through eighth grade. These lessons, which align to the Texas state standards, teach weather, ecology and engineering design through kinesthetic and experiential learning.

When presenting a lesson on hurricanes to Ereckson eighth grade students, Evan’s booming voice can be heard carrying across two classrooms. “Nature is a force. Your job is to

design a structure that will withstand the wind and the rain that the tables will impact.” Students shift eagerly during the instruction, anxious to draw their instructions from a set of papers on Evans’ table, and begin construction.

“This is engineering design,” Evans calls out. “Think about the principles of design as you construct your buildings.”

Like nature, Evans is also a force. A force that the STEAM Center is fortunate to have on staff. With his enthusiasm, his love of nature and science and his passion for hands-on learning, Evans is one of the many incredible professionals that make the STEAM Center such a unique opportunity for Allen ISD students.

SOME ADDITIONAL INFO

“MY TIME WITH ADVENTURE EXPERIENCES IS WHERE I LEARNED HOW TO EDUCATE...IT WAS HANDS-ON AND EXPERIENTIAL.”