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Backyard Project
A Regenerative Learning Ecosystem

The Bisbee Science Lab is located at 519 W Melody Lane, Bisbee AZ, a property owned and operated by the Bisbee Unified School District. The Bisbee Science Lab, in conjunction with the Bisbee Unified School District, Copper Queen Library, Bisbee community, and UA landscape design Coverdell fellow Blake Houghton, is working to redesign the roughly 8 acre backyard into a versatile public space.

In October 2021, we invited sustainable landscape design architect Gerardo Ruiz Smith from San Miguel Mexico to run a collaborative design workshop at 519 W Melody Lane. Our 35 participants provided valuable ideas that helped shape our current work. In November and December 2021, we ran workshops with local elementary, middle, and high school students. Their creative input will be integral as we continue with the design of the landscape. In March of 2022, we ran another community design workshop, targeting locals who live in the immediate vicinity of 519 W Melody Lane. 

Now, in collaboration with Bisbee Unified School District, they have received funding from A for Arizona to start the design phase! We have received applications and have selected our Design Team partner and will be announcing it soon! 

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Project Manager


Thea Van Gorp 

Project Manager, Bisbee Science Lab

Thea Van Gorp was born and raised in Bisbee. She is an experienced education consultant with a background in community education and informal learning and has worked in a variety of museums and nonprofits in Tucson and in New York City. Thea holds a Masters degree in Applied Anthropology & Education with an emphasis on Leveraging Informal Learning and Rural Studies from Teachers College, Columbia University. She recently moved back to Bisbee to work on this project and give back to her community. 

Advisory Board

Brenda Morales

Office Manager, Bisbee Community Member

Brenda Morales was born and raised in Bisbee, Brenda and her husband Ramon have made their home in San Jose, raising their two daughters. Since the girls (now 21 and 16) were very young, Brenda has enjoyed volunteering in the classroom and has always been active in cheering on the Puma sports teams. She has volunteered serving meals at The Coalition for the Homeless and is an active member of St. Patrick's Church. She currently works as the office manager for the Bisbee Information Office. Brenda attended school in the decommissioned school building where this project takes place.


Sheyla Lopez

School Counselor, Douglas/Agua Prieta Community Member

Sheyla Lopez is a mother, well educated feminist with a strong background in behavior and child psychology, and cross-border community member. She has used her practical skills to serve her community and her family both in Mexico and in the U.S. She currently works as a school counselor for the Center for Academic Success schools in Douglas, serving K-12 students through vocational orientations, mental health interventions, general support, and much more. She loves challenges, and works hard to bring enrichment opportunities to her students.

Terry Rayna

Former Principal/Superintendent of McNeal Schools


Eliani Rubio

Bisbee Science Lab Lead High School Intern

Eliani Rubio is a Bisbee High School sophomore who has been on the BSL internship team since the beginning of her freshman year. During her tenure, she has helped open the Outdoor Learning Center, lead summer programming with the Boys and Girls Club, facilitate activities during open lab hours, and run the mobile lab in Naco, Bisbee, and Douglas. This past fall she was promoted to the role of lead intern, and now takes on the responsibilities of managing the intern schedules and gathering and verifying invoices. She is interested in helping in all BSL endeavors, including the new backyard project.

Satellite Image Provided by UA Landscape Design Student Blake Houghton

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Satellite Image Provided by Gerardo Ruiz Smith

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Funded By:

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