Linking Traditions of the Past With Learning for the Future
Unique Architecture of Hillside
The 42 member design team for Hillside’s conceptual design was given two unique challenges, (1) create learning environments and (2) promote collaboration among all members of the community. The design process started with several conversations about how the building should feel and what the total learning environment should look like. The team focused on several educational constructs that centered on the purpose of elementary schools. These constructs served as the design foundation. The committee concluded that our learning environments at Hillside should be reflective of the following:
- A school’s environment should announce, “This is a place for children!”
- Child development and maturation
- Collaboration, team teaching, and team work
- Arts integration
A Hearth Room located near the main entrance welcomes students and families to Hillside radiating a message of welcome, warmth, comfort, belonging, and home. It was designed as a symbol of a community meeting room, a retreat, a den, or especially “a home”. In designing the Hearth Room, the team was especially interested in featuring a room that has a wide range of functionality. The fireplace in the Hearth Room is our symbol for the heart/soul for the extension of the home environment. The Hearth Room is a gathering place for all of our students, parents, and patrons. People feel real comfort when they are inside our school setting. An extension of our media center the Hearth Room is a place for children to spend time reading for pleasure or conducting research.
Hillside is a place where children have access to a multitude and variety of books, as well as various reading and writing materials. Learning occurs in classrooms that have been designed to allow children to use their literacy strategies through easy access to books and technology. Media center books are checked out to the grade level neighborhoods for easy access to teachers and students. Living rooms are extensions of the media center as materials are circulated throughout the building. Living rooms are conveniently constructed between grade level classrooms enabling teachers the flexibility to provide instruction in a variety of group settings depending upon the learning needs of their students and demands of the literacy learning process.
Living rooms have a special feel and uniqueness. They are places where all students feel welcome and connected to their classmates. Depending upon classroom teachers, living rooms become:
- a giant city in the third grade living room for students to learn about communities.
- a mini learning center in fourth grade focusing on the country of Russia with many artifacts and books.
- a rainforest where students are able to explore, learn about ecosystems, and the water cycle.
The concept of community is present in our K-2, 3-4, and 5-6 neighborhoods created for collaboration and the developmental needs of our students. Neighborhoods are designed to provide flexible and ongoing educational support to all students. The support personnel for reading, writing, and math are located in close proximity to classrooms ensuring developmentally appropriate practices with teaching and learning. Strategically locating support staff near classrooms enables flexibility for a variety of support, such as collaborative teaching, small group instruction, and student to student teaching.
Classroom space is dedicated to the various programs offered at Hillside. Space was created for three music classrooms. The music technology room is used to integrate technology and music. Students are able to practice musical skills and also work with music theory. A computer production lab allows students to produce multi media projects that integrate music, art, and text. The placement of the music and art and media centers assist in the integration of all these programs as well as interdisciplinary connections with common artistic themes. Our facility helps our faculty members and students see the arts more holistically connected to the total educational program.
Our dining room was designed to create an atmosphere of comfort and relaxed eating positively impacting our student’s eating habits and their behavior in the lunchroom. Round tables assist in building a sense of community and aid conversations among students. The dining room can configure as a performance hall, as a moving wall opens the music room to the dining room creating opportunities for performances. This setting provides more intimate concert performances by our bands, orchestra, or choirs.
The technology at Hillside offers our students and teachers a variety of opportunities to learn using technology. With the use of Smart Boards and Document Cameras, teachers are able to deliver instruction in unique and innovated ways. Hillside was built to be flexible and adaptable to future technologies.
The designed team has met the challenge and created Hillside Elementary School, a place for children to learn. Hillside is a second home where relationships are valued and cultivated.