The fourth case study in INTERSECT Volume I explores Little Prairie Primary School. The unifying design concepts throughout the school were inspired by local places and community values. The Town Square and its surrounding spaces make up the “public zone” of the building, which includes the cafeteria, gym, and media center. Down the corridor from The Town Square, the main academic spaces welcome Kindergarten, First and Second graders into three mixed-age pods.
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The Little Prairie Primary School case study explores how the physical environment can promote connectedness and safety to help young learners grow.
Connectedness: Feeling connected to others begins with understanding and appreciating one’s own role within a larger system. That ability for self-awareness is rooted in safety and comfort. When a school environment fosters a feeling of safety and connectedness, students’ brains can function, form patterns, show empathy, and of course, learn!1
Connectedness and safety were two key themes of the academic spaces. Among mixed-age learning environments, connected classrooms provide a sense of community and offer opportunities for team teaching and collaboration. This has been proven to have a positive influence on the social and emotional factors of development.
Overhead doors physically connect classrooms and provide more opportunities for play and hands-on activity. The glass doors also provide a visual connection through the top panels. This allows a standing teacher to be able to supervise the connected environments, while the frosted lower panels eliminate distractions between seated students.
Alcoves outside of the classroom provide space for learning within the corridors. Students earn the privilege to utilize these spaces for quiet reading or small-group work, teaching respect and self-discipline. Visually connected to the classroom by large windows, these alcoves give students a sense of agency while still feeling connected to their peers and teachers.
To learn more about the Little Prairie Primary School project, click here.
1 Gorrell, Cheryl A., “Safe Learning Environments.” Presentation, DLR Architects, Kansas City, MO, July 10, 2019.