Outdoor Learning Centers

Experiential education is all about learning by doing. Because our goal at Crow Canyon is to learn and teach about the past, we face a special challenge—how to create spaces and environments that allow students to “experience” another time and culture. Through such experiences, students gain not just knowledge, but real understanding.

Currently, Crow Canyon has two learning centers: The Pithouse Learning Center recreates a Basketmaker III (“Early Farmer”) pithouse dating from about A.D. 650; the Pueblo Learning Center is a replica of a Pueblo II–Pueblo III farmstead dating from about A.D. 1150 to 1200. Together, the two centers are powerful teaching tools, serving as temporal “bookends” that introduce students to the concepts of cultural continuity and change.

The Pithouse Learning Center
Originally constructed in 1985, the Pithouse Learning Center was Crow Canyon’s first full-scale replica used as an experiential classroom. Located partway up a canyon slope, at the edge of the pinyon-juniper woods, the structure recreates an environment that allows students to experience for themselves the lifestyle of the ancestral Pueblo Indians (also called the Anasazi) of the seventh century A.D.

Years of use and exposure to the elements took their toll on the original pithouse, which was constructed of earth, stone, and wood—the same materials used by ancient builders. So Crow Canyon rebuilt the structure in the spring of 2006, retaining an authentic appearance, but this time incorporating more-durable materials into its construction.

The Pueblo Learning Center
Built in 2004 on the canyon rim opposite the Pithouse Learning Center, the Pueblo Learning Center allows students to “fast-forward” in time to the late twelfth century. The complex consists of a masonry roomblock and tower arranged around an open plaza, where students observe—and discuss the significance of—the dramatic changes in architecture that took place between the seventh and twelfth centuries. Using a curriculum developed in collaboration with our Native American Advisory Group, Crow Canyon educators lead students in activities that highlight both similarities and differences in lifestyle through time.