Prairie Early Childhood Center
ClientCollege Community School District
Four main guiding principles led the design of the new Early Childhood Center for College Community School District: scale of the building fit to the users (small children); connectedness to the outdoors; functionality; and security.
In today’s technology-laced world, studies show children do not get enough time outside. The design stresses features that connect the interior environment to the world outside. The district, as well as members of the design team, believe strongly in the benefits of access to nature and views to greenspaces; specifically that this access calms young children and encourages active, healthy learning. Thus, corridors incorporate expansive floor-to-ceiling windows, and form a horseshoe around the outdoor playground. Situated on the south side of the building and enclosed on three sides, the playground was placed and designed to respond to Iowa’s climate; by facing south, the playground takes advantage of the best sun exposure year-round and is better protected from the elements as the seasons change.
Security is critical for K-12 design, and measures were incorporated throughout the design. Upon entering the building, visitors are welcomed by the administration area. This allows staff to monitor who enters and exits the building. Views to the playground are visible from the lobby, serving to connect parents and visitors to the heart of the building while allowing staff further control. For parents dealing with one or more small children, it’s important the front entrance be efficient and functional. The infant area is located up front, making it a shorter trek for parents carrying heavy car seats (which can be stored in conveniently placed lockers).
As a center for young children, it was important the space incorporate playful elements as well. The team designed animal-themed branding and wayfinding, which will be implemented throughout the building.