Coppell Independent School District (ISD) had big ideas: a new learning environment with a cutting-edge education system that could support individual learners. That meant a design that did things differently than the past. After a visioning process, they had three goals: to reduce limitations and inspire innovation, to celebrate fun and authentic learning experiences through sustainable practices, and to create collaboration, connection, and active learning. Richard J. Lee Elementary School is the first big step in Coppell ISD’s vision.
Something different is happening inside Lee Elementary—challenge-based learning.
This type of education focuses on each individual’s learning style. Learners are presented with a challenge, and then they choose what methods they’ll use to overcome it.
A diverse selection of learning zones lets students work in groups of varying sizes, and the open-concept plan lets them move fluidly between options while also promoting informal supervision.
We designed the school to specifically support the flexibility that challenge-based learning promotes.
Rather than the conventional organization of classrooms by grade, the learners (students) at Lee Elementary are grouped into learning houses.
Each of the five houses has four classrooms, five small rooms for collaborative work, an open area with casual seating, two labs, and a professional home-base where designers (teachers) share office space.
A house is made up of learners from Kindergarten to grade five, and it’s supported by six designers engaged with all of their students. The bonus? The learners and designers all know each other: they’re in the same neighborhood.
This community approach focuses on needs rather than age. If a fifth grader is falling behind in math, they could do some recovery with the fourth graders. If a second grader is reading at a third grade level, they can sit with the third graders.
With this model of flexibility and stability, Lee Elementary creates a comfortable atmosphere for learners as they move through their education, day to day and year to year.
As the first net-zero elementary school in Texas, Lee Elementary is dedicated to producing as much energy as it consumes.
Daylight harvesting through reflective ceiling tubes and large windows enables natural light to fill 90% of the school, meaning less energy is needed for illumination.
The school uses less electricity than an ASHRAE compliant design, and the electricity it does use is offset by solar panels.
With rainwater collection (for plumbing and irrigation) and a geothermal heating and cooling system, Lee Elementary is breaking even—and ahead of the curve.
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