Project File: Zoo-based education

Built on an 18-acre site, Croft Middle Design Center is affiliated with and used by the adjoining Nashville Zoo at Grassmere. It is one of only 10 such facilities in the United States. The zoo animals are incorporated in all disciplines of the curriculum.

Serving 800 students in grades 5 to 8, classrooms and lockers are clustered by academic grades on dedicated hallways to create a more intimate learning environment. Community spaces, such as the dining commons, zoo demonstration room, music and art rooms, and gymnasium, are accessed via a central stairway and lower-level corridor.

An avenue of international flags along a curved colonnade, symbolic of the earth's curvature, greets students and visitors. Selected by each grade, the flags represent a country from each of the continental pavilions in which academic classes are held. The main lobby features a large statuary globe, live plants and an illuminated photo wall. In the South America corridor, large butterflies flutter at students' feet; Native American colors and patterns adorn the North America corridor. Ceiling tiles form a tree with far-reaching branches at the entrance of the zoo demonstration room.

The foundation of the color palette is blue and green, signifying the ecological themes of water, sky and earth. Black, purple and orange serve as accent colors.

The architect for this project is Gould Turner Group (Nashville, Tenn.).

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