Project File: School of choice

June 1, 2006
Aspen Elementary School, Vernon Hills, Ill.

The “choice theory model” that promotes independence and group interaction inspired the design of Aspen Elementary School, Vernon Hills, Ill.

The project includes a 58,842-square-foot addition that triples the size of an existing kindergarten to create a K-6 “School of Choice.” The addition situates primary grades on the first floor and intermediate grades on the second. Each grade level has two “grade-level teams” of 50, totaling 350 students.

Forming the heart of the school, an outdoor courtyard/classroom connects the addition and existing building. Its swirling patterns of multi-colored gravel represent the fun and freedom associated with the choice theory model. The courtyard includes a path with a timeline and sculptures of planets.

The design highlights the library, which has glass and metal walls that lean into the courtyard. Students inside the library experience a connection with the outdoors and a feeling of spaciousness.

A new entry connects the existing kindergarten and the addition. Its glass walls provide visibility for security and offer a glimpse of the outdoor courtyard.

The architect is Legat Architects, Inc. (Waukegan, Ill.), and the landscape architect is 3D Design Studio (Grayslake, Ill.).

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