The Robert and Elizabeth Karplus Outdoor Nature Lab

August 26, 2021

“Where Inspiration Grows”

The Outdoor Nature Lab—under construction right now—will be the first new addition to The Lawrence in 20 years! Nestled next to the building and overlooking a stunning view of San Francisco Bay, this nature center will be a native landscape attracting birds, pollinators, decomposers, and insects that you’ll develop relationships with and learn to identify when you visit other green spaces. Facilitated experiences and exhibits will encourage wonder, curiosity, and stewardship.

Who are Robert and Elizabeth Karplus?

A drawing of the Outdoor Nature Lab at The Lawrence.

Elizabeth Karplus (Betty) dedicated her professional life to teaching and learning, including running a radiochemistry laboratory and teaching at Mills College. Professor Robert (Bob) Karplus was a theoretical physicist and a pioneer in science education. Their work had a seminal impact on the work carried out by The Lawrence Hall of Science. Bob was the principal investigator of the Science Curriculum Improvement Study, the first hands-on, laboratory based, comprehensive curriculum program for grades K-6 ever created at the Lawrence Hall of Science and served as Associate Director at The Lawrence for more than 10 years, including one year as Director. Professor Karplus pioneered the methodology of field testing and classroom revisions that is at the center of learning design today. Together, Bob and Betty co-authored papers on the development of scientific reasoning that have had a lasting impact on the field of science education. They shared a lifelong love of discovery and the outdoors, as well as a strong desire to see everyone else enjoy discovering nature.

A Tradition of Outdoor Learning

A child with a magnifying glass examining nature

The Lawrence Hall of Science has supported outdoor learning since our earliest days. In the 1970s, we developed the very first high-quality instructional materials for use in outdoor science, which we called Outdoor Biological Instructional Strategies (OBIS). Since 2011, our BEETLES Project has been dedicated to improving outdoor science education and environmental learning nationwide. But ironically, we have never had our own space for outdoor learning for our own community here in the Bay Area! So we have never been able to test or prototype or study outdoor learning onsite at The Lawrence. We look forward to welcoming you to our new Outdoor Nature Lab in early 2022.

Major support for the Robert and Elizabeth Karplus Outdoor Nature Lab is provided by Barbara Karplus and Rodney Womer. Additional meaningful support is provided by the California Department of Parks and Recreation, the Shimizu Family in memory of Lakas Shimizu, Helzel Family Foundation, William Knox Holt Foundation, Brian Metcalf, and many more donors.

Your gifts make a difference! Make a donation today.
To learn more about giving opportunities to grow the Outdoor Nature Lab, please contact Susan Gregory at

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