Walt Whitman once said, “Behold I do not give lectures or a little charity, when I give, I give myself.”
The Hollis + Miller family has found the perfect intersection between what our community and clients’ needs and passions are and our unique expertise. We have designed and are constructing a “signature outdoor learning environment” that has been aptly named “Learnscape”.
The Heritage Elementary Learnscape (v1.0) was designed as a collaborative effort between students, staff, and Hollis + Miller Architects to create a unique educational canvas for the students to explore, imagine, and learn. The process began with a design charrette led by Hollis + Miller Architects where students from Kindergarten up to 5th grade as well as teachers had the opportunity to “play architect” and design their own ideal outdoor classroom. After that, the staff of Hollis + Miller took those ideas and combined them with design concepts that reinforce the fundamental ways students learn to create the new outdoor classroom.
The Learnscape has been designed using four main elements: learning walls, plaza, pavilions, and seating. These elements have been organized in a composition that promotes the natural and varied ways we learn as well and utilizing its unique exterior environment. The learning walls create a backdrop for traditional large group teaching and, in unison with the plaza, begin to spatially define the Learnscape. The plaza contains a large scale checkerboard, reinforcing the concept that learning occurs even within play.
The rest of the Learnscape is defined by light and airy pavilions. While providing a supervisory function, the open abstract cubic forms animate the space and engage the students’ creativity. Educationally, these structures can house small group or individual learning, whose context is only limited by the imagination and could conjure visions of castles, old west storefronts, or even a rocket traveling through space.
The final piece that ties the other components together and creates the most flexibility for the educators to change the group’s size and dynamics is the articulating bench. Mobile and shape-changing, the bench has the ability to form large groups or bend to create small learning areas. Because of its mobility, the learning spaces and opportunities created can flow and move within the plaza and are not fixed to specific zones. Just outside of the plaza area of the Learnscape are landscape beds where the unique classroom setting of the outdoors can be taken full advantage of to learn about the planting and growth, and care of various plants can be explored.