Working alongside professional architects, high school freshmen in Blue Springs helped create an outdoor learning area that’s a gift to the community from a local design firm.
The outdoor Learnscape has a covered amphitheater and seating of different heights, so seats also can be used for tables. The seats are staggered around the floor, not in rows, to allow students to break into groups of different sizes.
The structure has two “learning walls” that function like chalkboards and are protected from the elements by sliding wood panels. The roof provides shade and also acts as a collection system for a rainwater storage system.
The Learnscape is a gift to the Blue Springs School District from Hollis + Miller Architects, an architecture and interior design firm based in Overland Park and Lee's Summit.
The Freshman Center was chosen as the Learnscape’s location because every student who comes through the district will attend this school at some point, according to a news release from Hollis + Miller.
Last year, the firm launched its annual contribution of a learning environment with a gift to the Olathe School District. It cut the ribbon on its Blue Springs project last week.
“I love the space,” said Freshman Center engineering and design teacher Jennifer Ewan. “It will be great to have the options for students to work as a group or do individual work.”
John Brown, partner and architect with Hollis + Miller, said company representatives met with students and allowed them to contribute their ideas to the design. Students delivered Power Point presentations on their ideas and did research.
“Employees constructed all of this, including the welding, and they built the footings,” Brown said.
Ryan Watts, now a sophomore at Blue Springs High School, was part of the group that collaborated with the architects to design the Learnscape last school year.
“It was a little of a shock (to see the structure) because our ideas were everywhere,” Watts said. “It was an interesting learning experience.”
The rainwater system provides a natural way to water plants, said Watts, who described Learnscape as “a great way for kids to learn — get active learning and learn about the outdoor wonders.”
Another student who participated was Ben Eichstadt, also a sophomore at Blue Springs High. He said it is “neat” that students can get out of the air-conditioned indoor classroom and into the outdoors.
“I know the science teachers, particularly biology, have wanted an outdoor classroom,” Eichstadt said.
Eighty-five percent of Hollis + Miller’s projects are public school designs. The Blue Springs district has been a long-term client, the company said.
“We wanted to do something with our hands instead of just handing over a check” to sponsor an event or effort, for example, said Kirk Horner, president of architectural services at Hollis + Miller Architects.
“It was a neat opportunity for our architects to get creative and have fun with it and work with the students.”