The design focuses on the individual learner’s experience by providing various environments for different types of learning. The campus is organized into two villages providing students with a sense of community and place. Each village is comprised of three neighborhoods: Discovery, Inquiry, and Voyage. Each neighborhood includes four houses or experiences with a shared collaboration area. Following the theme of connecting children to nature and a sense of place, each village has unique outdoor learning environments; a centralized courtyard and two outdoor exploration courtyards. The villages surround a central building spine that shares administrative spaces, instructional support, and shared core enrichment spaces like indoor play, art, and music.
The innovative design is backed by research and local partners, who uncovered the benefits of play and nature in our learning environments. Creating a calming yet fulfilling learning experience drives the design. The gently curving form eases children into exciting spaces. With neighborhood hubs and reduced circulation, travel is more enjoyable and less overwhelming. Immersive outdoor learning environments can be found throughout the site, with views focusing on play areas and nature. Celebrating the diversity of the area is reflected through all aspects of design. The toolkit of play spaces provides a flexible and well-equipped learning experience. All classrooms are based on themes from the Houston community, including Gulf coast, International District, Space City, and more. The Texas Prairies transforms the site into a “nature preserve” with winding pathways for the community. Local partners also provided landscape resources and nature-based learning curriculums.
The Center also features an alternative approach to site development. In lieu of a flat site with Bermuda grass and the city-required landscaping, this site uses low impact development ideas with sheet flow, bio-swales, pocket prairies and even some reforestation. Paths and outdoor classrooms are located throughout the undulating site to encourage student and community engagement with nature providing spaces where students safely enjoy time outside to explore and play with water, plant, and harvest vegetables in an edible garden, and observe the nature and prairies in their backyard.