WATCH NOW: Trees inspire design of new Peck K-8 school in Greensboro | Education

GREENSBORO — One of Greensboro’s oldest schools is about to be reborn and rebuild, with an approach that frames learning as an adventure and a design inspired in part by the woods that will surround the new building.

“We really took cues from this tree canopy idea to protect, shelter and bring our students together,” said architect Gregor Lewis.

Peck Elementary School in Greensboro is among the schools set to be renovated or replaced through voter-approved bonds in 2020.


Peck Elementary School in south Greensboro near the city’s Glenwood neighborhood dates from 1929. It has some later additions, but its condition has declined and it is to be replaced in the first phase of the facilities master plan. Guilford County Schools. The county borrows to pay for projects by selling bonds. Voters gave the county the go-ahead for bonds for the first round of projects in 2020 and will consider another round of bonds for additional projects in the May ballot.

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The new Peck will differ from the old Peck in several ways. The elementary school will transform into a “K-8” school, become an “Expeditionary Learning” magnet, and move to the other end of its current site. All three changes are factors in the design of the school.

The upcoming transformation into a K-8 school meant designing the new school and campus to serve more students and accommodate spaces for a wide range of ages.

About 900 students, from toddlers in kindergarten to eighth graders through their early teens, will occupy what is expected to be a three-level building. The district estimates it could open in 2024 and cost around $41 million. Design work is in progress.

Stitch 1

View of the main entrance to the Peck Expeditionary Learning School. The new Peck will differ from the old Peck in several ways. The elementary school will transform into a “K-8” school, become an “Expeditionary Learning” magnet, and move to the other end of its current site.

SHP via Guilford County Schools Photos, Provided

Guilford County Schools is creating a K-8 school at the Peck site for several reasons, according to district spokesperson Janson Silvers. One is the projected growth in the Smith High School attendance area, where Peck is located. The district plan also attempts to avoid the operational inefficiencies that can accompany small schools.

Currently, most schools in the district are only elementary, middle, or high schools. Some of the few exceptions include Johnson Street Global Studies, a K-8 school, and Penn-Griffin School for the Arts, a 6-12 school. These two tier configurations will likely become somewhat more common over the next two decades, if the district continues to follow the facilities master plan.

At a recent board meeting, Superintendent Sharon Contreras said schools that combine both elementary and middle school students are more common in other districts, and the combination doesn’t always mean one. total fusion.

peck 3

View of the courtyard of the Peck Expeditionary Learning School.

Jesse Books

“It’s a culture that evolves in the school, that they work together, but in some cases they are apart,” she said.

Lewis, who works for architectural firm SHP, told the school board in January that early draft designs included separate entrances for K-4 and 5-8 bus drivers, as well as separate areas for their academic classrooms. .

He said the design team thought keeping older and younger students away from each other could help create a sense of safety.

Location of current Peck Elementary

Classes would be paired, Lewis said, with common spaces where the two classes — pre-kindergarten and kindergarten, for example — could collaborate together.

He cited the common spaces as an example of how the school is designed to reflect expeditionary learning.

This is the educational approach Guilford County Schools has chosen for Peck as he transitions to a magnet school. Generally, families are assigned to a school based on the attendance area where they live. With magnet schools, families choose to send their child there and students do not have to live in the school’s attendance area.

Each magnet school or program usually has something unique to help attract students, but it varies. It can be a theme, such as languages ​​or science, or an approach, such as Montessori, single-sex education, or expeditionary learning.

The EL approach dates back to the early 1990s and a partnership between the Harvard Graduate School of Education and Outward Bound, USA. According to EL Education’s website, the model combines Outward Bound founder Kurt Hahn’s “character-infused philosophy, which emphasizes teamwork, courage, and compassion” and an “approach learning platform designed by leading Harvard scholars”.

Students participate in in-depth studies lasting several months on specific topics. These “learning expeditions” include students doing research together, doing projects, hearing from experts and going on field trips.

The district views expeditionary learning as an exciting opportunity for students that would help them learn skills that will help them prepare for high school and life after graduation, Silvers said in an email. He said the district also wanted to provide more options for families, given the high demand from parents in Greensboro for choice of where to send their students to school.

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Many of the new schools the district seeks to build will have a more flexible and collaborative space, Lewis said, and the architects are especially trying to push those goals for Peck, because of the expeditionary learning theme. He talked about having classrooms that could be open to the common area when needed, or closed off at other times, and having movable furniture of different sizes and functions that could be useful for various projects or activities. of group.

Stitch 4

View of the bus passenger entrance for the future Peck Expeditionary Learning School. About 900 students, from toddlers in kindergarten to eighth graders through their early teens, will occupy what is expected to be a three-level building. The school could open in 2024 and cost around $41 million.

SHP through Guilford County Schools, provided

While the new school is being built, leaders expect Peck students to continue learning at their old school. This meant having to find a new location on the site for the new Peck and designing the new school to reflect the challenges and opportunities presented by the new location.

The new Peck will be at the rear of the existing school site, in a wooded and hilly area. Once the old building is demolished, the front of the site will accommodate playgrounds for students and the community. At the rear of the site, the new school should be built on a hill so that two of its three levels are at ground level. There will be a lower level where the buses will enter and a main entrance at the top of the hill on the other side on the second level.

The woods around the school have inspired a design element that appears on several sides of the building in design projects. Tall pillars, similar to tree trunks, connect to a canopy-like roof that extends beyond the edge of the building. Cutouts in this roof allow light to filter down to the ground below, in patterns that change throughout the day. It is meant to evoke the sun shining through the leaves of a forest.

Early designs also include a courtyard between the school’s academic wing and shared spaces for subjects like music and art. The idea, Lewis said, is for students and their teachers to have quick and direct access from their classrooms to a safe space for outdoor learning.

“Also, we envision these expeditions continuing into the woods so that they can do some sort of guided tours to learn about the animals and plants and anything that grows on the forest floor,” a- he declared. “Everything we all did when we were kids.”

Contact Jessie Pounds at 336-373-7002 and follow @JessiePounds on Twitter.

Abdul J. Gaspar