New PreK - 4 School
Tucked away in Wintersville, Ohio, the Indian Creek Local School District is a proud district with a remarkably student-centered focus and progressive mindset to creating state-of-the-art, high-performance learning environments for their students. Cross Creek Elementary School’s design took queues from the area’s topography. Serving students in grades Pre-K through fourth. Part of a campus-wide masterplan, Indian Creek also has a new high school under construction and a second elementary that is undergoing a phased renovation. All three schools are scheduled to be fully open to students in the fall semester of 2021.
Cross Creek’s exterior concept was inspired by the shale formations endemic to the area. Wintersville rests on the Marcellus Shale geological formation and as a result the layers of rock protrude through the earth in beautiful formations. Indian Creek’s new building at Cross Creek mimics this layering effect with its low, horizontal forms and earth-toned brick. Splashes of color wrap the building exterior as well, reminiscent of the vibrant Ohio landscape. Bright and vibrant colors blend with the interior color scheme to create an inviting and joyful presence for the students who will attend school here.
The exterior organization is centered around safety, with a main drive entering from the northeast of the site and forking off into two paths – one for bus traffic and one for vehicular traffic. The bus lane loops around the school and offers safe and convenient access for students, removed from all vehicular traffic. The bus loop also doubles as the hard surface playground. During the day when school is in session, gates will enclose the bus loop so that students can play outside in a fully-enclosed area, using the asphalt surface for four square, hopscotch, and basketball. The vehicular drive allows cars to pull up to the main entry portion of the building for drop-off or pick-up. Cars and buses then exit the site on the opposite side of the building to the southwest. The entry and exit points were specifically chosen to provide the best visibility for vehicles as the site is located on a winding road on a hill. Choosing safe entry and exit points were of the utmost importance.
The overall theme is playing homage to our area and brings the outside in. The dark colors represent the coal and shale in our area. The sweeping roof lines represent the hills. There are areas in the building where there are open girders for our steel history.
John Belt, Assistant Superintendent, Indian Creek Local Schools
The hub of the school building is a two-story cafeteria with expansive glass and access to the outdoors. Doubling as a performance space, the cafeteria’s stage doubles as the music room, with a moveable wall to provide separation when needed from the larger space. Above the stage sits a flexible media center, with a full wall of glass offering a unique bird’s eye view of the cafeteria hub below and daylight beyond. Classrooms are arranged around a large extended learning area, connected by glass garage doors. Some classrooms have moveable walls between to facilitate team teaching but separate as educational activities require.Some of thegrade levels only have three classes, so the operable partitions will ensure that no space goes unused.
The younger years of students’ experiences in and outside of school are vital to their mental health and cognitive development. Children experience life’s circumstances much differently than adults and need safe spaces, calming colors, and optimistic adventures to help give them a feeling of control. Cross Creek Elementary captures these key design elements by including colors that suppress stress, biophilic forms and textures to connect to nature, and grade level identity “badges” they earn as they progress through the grade levels.
Wayfinding and special discovery can play a major role in children’s responses to their environment and serve as a learning tool. The concept for Cross Creek Elementary depicts the experience a child would have moving through the different stages of the water cycle as if they were a single drop of water, starting in a creek as Creek Campers and ending as precipitation landing on a mountain as Mountain Rangers. Not only do they learn how water travels through the cycle, but they also see how water is interacting with people, animals, and the earth along the way. Vertical circulation and extended learning areas are used to portray how the water moves from one stage to the next, including a waterfall to represent runoff and wall graphics to represent evaporation.
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