Elementary schools have a new look as educational models shift toward project-based learning, STEAM and authentic exploration. Design solutions are supporting flexible functionality while mirroring aesthetics found in secondary and higher education facilities. Choice is also a prevalent theme—from furniture selection to classroom size to outdoor learning to collaborative spaces.
These types of adaptable learning environments have proven to encourage deeper engagement on a peer-to-peer and student-to-teacher level. They also foster the development of foundational skills that are critical to positive academic, work and life experiences—essentially, supporting students as they become future ready.
For example, modern design embraces exploration and collaboration. These experiences promote responsibility, leadership and team building skills. Learning environments that empower teacher as facilitator also empower the development of accountability, responsibility and creativity for students.
At the elementary level, this speaks to the process and not the product of learning. Huckabee’s clients are embracing this culture shift and working to instill a love of learning for our youngest students. Four examples of how this idea manifests through design are found in new elementary schools in Huffman, Dripping Springs, Georgetown and Grapevine-Colleyville ISDs.
Huffman ISD—Love of Learning from the Outside In
HISD’s new elementary school provides an immersive learning environment indoors and outdoors. They’ve sought out partnerships, including one with Texas Parks & Wildlife, to create learning opportunities from the moment you step onto the property line. Winding paths and outdoor classrooms set the stage for interactive and fun instruction. Inside, learning communities are designed to promote movement so that learning environments can change on a daily basis. Large windows connect the outdoors to interior spaces.
Dripping Springs ISD—Form, Function and Instruction
Every space in Dripping Springs ISD’s new Sycamore Springs Elementary / Middle School supports authentic learning. It’s a modern environment filled with design elements that entice students to engage with and within the building—in formal and informal ways. Whether learning about how a building operates (wall sections are cut-out to reveal the mechanics behind piping systems), exploring how structural engineers create art pieces (sculptural element in the Center for Learning & Innovation combines STEM and humanities disciplines) or utilizing one of the many clean or dirty maker spaces, the facility encourages ongoing exploration for students and teachers alike.
Georgetown ISD—Redefining Student and Educator Culture
Georgetown ISD’s district-wide culture shift focuses on creating customization at all levels of education. At Purl Elementary School, this includes the use of movable walls, flexible furniture and open-concept learning environments that promote adaptable and shared learning. Teacher workrooms are designed as professional work environments where cross-teaming and collaboration are encouraged. Across the school, teams of teachers are responsible for the reservation, designation and utilization of space and student groups.
Grapevine-Colleyville ISD—Process, Not Product, of Learning
GCISD’s new Cannon Elementary School is designed for STEM and project-based learning. Within the campus, everything moves, creating an environment that is interactive, technology-driven and fun for young learners. Each space focuses on the process, not the product, of learning to support exploration, collaboration and ideation. Six learning pods can be broken into 1200 sf, 800 sf, 400 sf or 200 sf classrooms for small-group and large-group instruction. Learning is on display around every corridor. A grow garden provides vegetables for the lunch room, and an outdoor amphitheater turns into a community classroom. Aesthetically, the school more closely aligns with secondary education than it does with a traditional elementary school.