New PK-5 Elementary School
The new Tallmadge Elementary School creates an environment that engages students and encourages the delivery of collaborative teaching methods. During the planning process, the architectural team hosted a visioning session, where educators, administrators, community members, and students developed three main goals to drive the project: variety of spaces, transparency, and a sense of community. The resulting design enables teachers to abandon isolated teaching practices, and instead work together to instruct based on the developmental needs of their students.
The school building is designed off axis as part of a campus to reduce the visual impact along the neighboring properties. The entries are clearly visible which improve surveillance and security on site. Similar to the interior, outdoor spaces offer opportunities to imagine, experiment, build, and create. Colorful house-shaped forms relate back to the original schoolhouse, while reducing the school building’s scale to blend with the surrounding neighborhood and expressing a welcoming gateway to visitors.
The overall school building organization houses large, public common areas in the center, progressing outward to open “collaboration stairs”, group studios, small group rooms, and focused learning studios. As a result, various grade levels and activities mix naturally, facilitating mentorship between older and younger school children.
Group studios outside the classrooms establish a common activity space for each grade, providing “maker space” furniture for team-based projects and messy creativity. Different styles of focused learning studios, connected to each group studio, accommodate various instruction methods, offer acoustic and visual separation for quiet work or testing, and bring variety and flexibility to students.
The interior design further emphasizes the project goals through the use of symbolic colors, gestures, and quotes. Wall graphics in each grade visually depict the various stages of a growing plant, from seedling and onward, bringing a sense of continuity to the school. The bright, open atmosphere, along with the visual connections to the outdoors, enhances transparency and helps achieve the District’s sustainability goals through daylighting.
The challenge was how could we help our teachers embrace the new 21st century methods while envisioning the potential in the architecture to revolutionize the way we do things. SoL Harris/Day has led the way in making this happen.
Steve Wood, COO, Tallmadge City Schools
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