Learnscape: A Signature Outdoor Classroom

 In Initiatives

Drawing Students to Nature

Hollis + Miller believes in living a good story, not just telling one. Going beyond the nuts and bolts of our services is second nature to the inquisitive minds of our people. In the early 2000s, we began to see a need for an expanded source of learning alongside the traditional school environment.  As we studied various cultural approaches, we established an annual philanthropic contribution we call Learnscape. Every year, our staff collaboratively design and build a purposefully crafted outdoor learning environment that draws students to nature, relaxes their minds and encourages focused learning, within the grounds of the schools they occupy every day.  Our 2017 recipient of our Learnscape design is long-standing client the Grain Valley School District.

Coexistence at Grain Valley
High School

Located on a wooded site just South of Grain Valley High School, Learnscape reveals a sense of coexistence among people, nature, and technology. The designers experimented with spatial ideas that would not typically appear in a school. 

Located on a wooded site just South of Grain Valley High School, Learnscape reveals a sense of coexistence among people, nature, and technology. The designers experimented with spatial ideas that would not typically appear in a school. 

Our collaborative design sessions included students and faculty from the school and sparked the idea to create a dominant walkway of varying heights linking the learning spaces. The path links several backdrops for education; including a gathering space for 20-30 students and staff, a collaboration space for smaller groups of 4-8 students, a garden space to facilitate biological and botanical curriculum, and a quiet observation area meant to be more of a contemplative space for 1-2 people. Technology custom built by Propaganda3 was added to the site to support curriculum if desired.

The major building materials were kept simple; limestone gravel for the path, Cor-ten steel for the major horizontal and vertical elements, and cedar lumber for the deck. Keeping with the coexist concept, the natural environment will slowly change the steel from grey to a dark red as it rusts, while the cedar will slowly change from its natural reddish hue to steel grey over time. These materials speak to the ever-changing natural world we live in.

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