Summit Public School’s pedagogical philosophy revolves around small schools that feature student-led, inquiry-based education where students are enabled to drive their own learning. Using a flipped classroom model, each student uses an individualized “playlist” of content, an idea originally developed by a group of Facebook engineers. Their new Summit Sierra school is designed to support this learning model, with large open learning areas adjoining STEM and Seminar rooms, fostering collaborative teaching and learning. Spaces are connected with glass interior garage doors, providing transparency and openness for a variety of educational activities. Working within a very tight budget, the design provides an exciting environment for 21st Century learning.
This project is an adaptive reuse and addition to an existing pre-engineered metal building, previously used as a community center. To increase usable area and create the learning spaces needed for the school, a new two-story wood-framed structure was built inside the existing metal building.
Summit Sierra’s student-centered, self-directed learning approach is a reversal from traditional lecture-based teaching, and the building needed to be a physical representation of this shift in focus in order to support the desired learning environment. The design process began with considering what types of spaces would enable the students to learn, both in collaborative groups and alone. The design for flexibility and openness, as well as quiet, results in a wide variety of interconnected spaces within the school. Glass garage doors and large windows provide transparency and connect classrooms to open shared learning areas. Seminar and STEM rooms front onto shared learning areas and daylight floods into both floors through the large central stair. Tucked between classrooms, quiet rooms provide visual connection to the larger school while maintaining sound isolation for concentrated study. Dry erase paint and movable furniture further support spontaneous instruction and flexible teaching moments.
Summit Sierra encourages connections to the community as part of students’ education. The renovated facility, located in the dense urban area of Little Saigon in the international district of Seattle, retains aspects reflective of the building’s previous life as the Asian Resource Center. Elements of the exterior were improved to make the school more open and welcoming to the community.