Off the beaten path, beyond a cluster of towering trees and alongside a rippling brook sits a clean and modern building. On a summer evening, it’s empty and practically untouched — a visitor might hear only trickling water, birds chirping, the wind through the trees and, only if you listen intently, the sound of street traffic or kids playing football in the distance.

But soon, the center will be bustling with young bodies weekdays between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m.

The Lakehill Preparatory School Alice and Erle Nye Family Environmental Science Center sits on a swath of East Dallas land. Though just four miles away from the school’s main campus and just feet from busy the Interstate 30 and Ferguson Road intersection, the site possesses a backwoods-y quality, says Lakehill headmaster Roger Perry.

“We’re about 40 feet lower than Ferguson Road, so the sound sort of floats right over the top,” he says. “You really feel like you are immersed in the woods.”

Perry expects students will appreciate the center, to which they will travel regularly by bus.

“We want to get them out in nature as much as possible, so they can learn about the environment and appreciate having something like this in the city limits.”

Situated behind a 2,000-square-foot limestone courtyard, this state-of-the-art, LEED-certified building will house laboratories and classrooms with an area to hose down after coming in from the woods, a meeting hall with a fireplace, big glass windows and access to the more than 40 acres of untouched land ripe for hands-on learning.

The site will offer supplemental learning for science students, but it will also serve as a site for enrichment in other areas of learning, says science coordinator and teacher Melissa Carpenter, who will office at the center.

“Students will get a chance to get dirty, be outdoors and see and do the things we talk about in class,” she says. “We will also integrate time at the center into all areas of the curriculum — journaling, artwork, languages — and the building itself will serve as a source of learning, where they can learn about building technology of the future.”

The center is named for Erle Nye, Lakehill school board chairman and former TXU Electric company chairman. His wife Alice served as a substitute teacher at Lakehill for many years.

“She was always there when we needed someone in a pinch,” Perry says. The couple’s five children graduated from Lakehill.

“It’s really awesome that we will get to name it after their family.”

Over the summer, Lakehill hosted Kite Day on the science center grounds. Lakehill’s 7th and 8th grade students built more than 300 kites and invited children from Bayles Elementary and their families to come test them out.

The center opened the first week of school — “we don’t want to put it off, even if it’s not completely finished,” Carpenter says — and a ribbon-cutting ceremony is scheduled for Sept. 10.

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