Sandy Hook School students have returned to Newtown for the first time in several years, in a new building designed to nurture their learning experience.
Svigals Project Manager Julia McFadden says Svigals has found that nature is helpful in a learning environment and is soothing. She says there have been studies showing that the color green can lower blood pressure and heart rate. Their design opens the school to nature. In the lobby there are metal steel forming tree trunks and colored glass panes in the widows create the effect of sunlight streaming through the leaves. Wood was also used on the ceiling by that back wall.
Vertical sunshades address some of the solar gain in the classrooms. Instead of plain grey, designers wanted do something lively. McFadden says the autumnal color scheme make it look like a xylophone.
The old school was a single story and McFadden says the teachers were a little reluctant to have two stories. They wanted the same sense of community so the designers create an open atrium in the lobby. Kids going to the library, gym or cafeteria can see and be seen.
McFadden says the wood was chosen to evoke the identity of Newtown. The local ecology was something that people held strongly and talked about during the planning meetings. The gables peak over the rolling landscape. South American hardwoods, naturally colored, were chosen to evoke the New England character. A concrete cistern covered in a mosaic collects rain water from the roof. The water is naturally treated by plants in a rain garden that spans the front of the building, before it flows down into the aquifer.
There are three weather vanes outside the school. One features an eagle, the school mascot. Another is a bear cub. The last is a mamma duck and ducklings, a theme in other artwork throughout the school. The former Sandy Hook School courtyard was home to a family of ducks, and the community is hoping to attract them to the site. Sandy Hook also has a duck race every year. In the waiting area of the main administration office hangs a painting of birds in flight. It was painted by Robert Reynolds, a local artist.
The Sandy Hook School Foundation donated funds to create an alcove to relocate the school's turtle. Shelly had a small aquarium before, but now has a large tank in the main lobby.
There are two so-called treehouse locations in the building. The designers were told that parents sometimes come with a sibling and that tutoring that gets done so these are meant as a breakout spaces.
The classrooms have a teaching wall. There is a white board, an interactive smartboard and a tack board. The doors have a side window and the only other window into the hallway is above teacher height. There are built in book cases. The lower grades have in classroom bathrooms.