Building Learnscape

Getting down to business

We traded in our dress pants and button downs for work boots and carpenter jeans and headed out to Sunflower Elementary School to construct this year’s Learnscape.

Each year, Hollis + Miller Architects donates the design and construction of a signature outdoor learning classroom to a Kansas City-metropolitan area school district, and the 2018 recipient is Shawnee Mission School District.

Armed with generators, power saws, 27.1 tons of rock and, of course, gallons and gallons of water, our entire team shut down the office for two days and pulled on their gloves and got to moving earth, cutting boards and hauling rocks.

This outdoor space is centered around three curriculum goals. Those goals of water, ecology and air quality have shaped every design decision throughout this process. Students will be immersed in learning about water, ecology and air quality and how they affect the Earth and those who inhabit it in a real, tangible way.

Incorporating educational elements

From the entrance to the backside of the outdoor learning environment, students are encouraged to discover the wonders of the natural environment by interacting with the space.

Every student has the opportunity to study the water conservation benefits of Gabion walls (metal cages filled with large rock) by tending to planter boxes formed with these unusual structures. Each grade level will get their hands dirty learning about ecology through gardening its own box. Instruction can be taken outside on the large, covered deck with a learning wall, and the roof’s solar panels give the students examples of alternative energy sources. Even the signage doubles as a musical instrument, teaching students about the physics of sound.

For generations to come, Sunflower Elementary students can get outside and learn about water, ecology and air quality at the new Learnscape.

Check back!

Watch for the ribbon cutting on this year’s Learnscape next month and hear from teachers and students on how they’re utilizing their new outdoor learning environment.

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