The driving concept for Arbor Heights School is Environmental Learning from Sea to Sky – a synthesis of the school’s pioneering Environmental Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (E-STEM) program. The project not only replaced the existing school, it doubled its capacity while providing additional outdoor space. The school serves as a landmark for the surrounding community with the increased greenspace, in addition to accessibility to the commons, gym, and library.
The original topography was restored to provide welcoming, at-grade access and sightlines from both streets, connect the school to the neighborhood, and improve security and stormwater management. Diverse site features encourage physical activity, casual and structured play, social interaction, and outdoor learning. Ecosystem-based themes define different zones within the preK-5 school – natural habitats and elements are illustrated with large images that depict how these concepts are embedded in nature.
Six Learning Communities are designed to accommodate the various E-STEM programs and support collaboration spaces and makerspaces. Practical sustainability strategies are embedded as building-based learning examples through daylight control, natural cooling and ventilation, and an exposed rainwater management system that tells the story of how water travels through the site.
The design supports the specific needs of 21st century learning; is cost and energy-efficient, highly flexible, durable, and sustainable; and will serve as a beacon for the community for generations to come.