Through the generosity of a community partner, Sunflower Elementary students now have a unique, outdoor learning environment to help them gain a better understanding of the world around them.
Sunflower was the recipient of the donated signature outdoor classroom by Hollis + Miller Architects. The school community, Shawnee Mission School District, and Hollis + Miller gathered at the site to dedicate the space with a ribbon cutting. Click here to see the video.
Sixth-grade drumming musicians welcomed guests to the ceremony at Sunflower Elementary with original music and several speakers helped commemorate the event.
Dr. Mike Fulton, superintendent, attended the ceremony along with members of the board of education, and provided a word of congratulations.
“I understand everything in this classroom was designed to allow our students now and for generations to come discover the wonders of nature and learn ways to take care of our natural environment,” Fulton said. “This is an incredible gift for our students.”
Maya Lance, fourth-grader, had the honor of cutting the ribbon. She shared that she helped design the shape of the classroom’s square seats.
Sunflower students and staff were involved throughout the design and construction process of the Learnscape. Hollis + Miller invited students to their headquarters earlier this year to participate in a charrette, to include their input in the design. Hollis + Miller staff members also conducted an in-service for teachers to help them understand the many curriculum connections and potential uses for this space.
“This Learnscape project is fun and very rewarding for us,” Daniel Cooper, senior project architect with Hollis + Miller said. “Great design is best achieved when co-creating with our clients.”
The Learnscape features three focus areas related to sustainability: ecology, water management, and alternative energy. The concept of ecology is represented by raised plant beds, with one reserved for each grade level. The Learnscape also features mulched plant beds planted with native grasses.
Water conservation is demonstrated by the use of pervious materials for the paths, and rain water harvesting. Alternative energy is exhibited by capturing the energy from the sun with two photovoltaic panels.
The Learnscape can also accommodate flexible learning arrangements and features multiple magnetic writing surfaces for large and small groups. It includes experiment tables with smooth writing surfaces that could be used for science, math, or technology.
“Our amazing teachers have already begun using the new classroom for a variety of learning opportunities,” Ryan Kalis, principal said. “We are excited to explore all the possibilities throughout the school year.”