Client:Elmwood Park Community Unit School District 401
Date:June 04, 2014

Classroom Design boosts Peer Learning

Progress at Elmwood Park High School

A photo posted by DLA Architects (@dla_architects) on

Science Center Addition at Elmwood Park High School

The project began with a series of meetings with the Board, Administration, and Staff. From these discussions, it was determined how the existing space served (or didn’t serve) the District’s pedagogy for 21st Century Education. The resulting addition is essentially a single learning unit with flexible labs and small group spaces that are open to the corridor but able to be partitioned as needed.

Science on display

Science and learning opportunities are everywhere in the space. The 6 primary learning labs have large overhead doors that open them to the main, flexible arterial space that links the addition to the existing building.
In this open, two-story corridor, “drop-zone” volumes and distance markings on the floor of the lower level allow experiments to be conducted within the learning unit while flooding the space with natural light from the skylights above.

Peer Learning the Priority for Classroom Design

A key aspect of the curriculum is for students to engage in peer-to-peer learning and for outside “experts” to be invited to participate in projects at the school. To facilitate these activities, the hub of the unit is the amphitheater space. This space will serve as a lecture hall, Movie Theater, and an informal study and gathering space.
The old former science labs have been repurposed to provide new learning spaces for the math department. The relocation of this department adjacent to the science unit encourages cross-pollination between the disciplines.
Sustainable design features include motion-sensing, LED lighting in the classrooms, which uses less energy and reduces heat load.