Odyssey Elementary School

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Odyssey Elementary School

By: VCBOArch

Odyssey Elementary is an educationally innovative school built around the theme, Bodies in Motion: The Animal Kingdom. The school champions the importance of healthy, active lifestyles and helps students understand their place in nature. It is a net-zero facility that has successfully become the greenest, most energy-efficient public school in the state of Utah. Odyssey is on-track to earn a LEED Gold Certification. Utterly unique in its design, it accommodates any learning modality the teachers wish to implement. There are four learning wings at Odyssey – groups of classrooms called “habitats” – red, orange, blue and green. Each habitat corresponds to one of the thematic motions of the school (fly, run, swim, and jump), and includes 8 classrooms, a central collaboration area, teacher prep and storage areas, and toilet room facilities. The organization of students into habitats reduces anonymity and encourages collaboration. Classrooms are designed with a 16-foot-wide roll-up glass door, allowing them to combine with the collaboration space or other classrooms. Every classroom door light bears the image of an animal that performs the motion of the house (a kangaroo rat, a shark, etc.). Critical to the success of the project is the totally unique furnishing package of mobile chairs, tables, stools, ottomans and modular soft seating that students move at a moment’s notice to accommodate different learning scenarios. The landscaping also represents the ways creatures move with plant materials and sculptural concrete. On the north side, footfall patterns show up in concrete textures and benches. In the courtyard, the idea of flight or swimming and the swirling vortices created by beating wings or fins are represented with benches and planter forms. On the south side, jumping is represented using benches indicating a springing motion. The building is carefully oriented to best take advantage of daylighting. Building spaces are multi-use for efficiency. The dining area is integrated into the circulation. Large glass doors between the dining area and the multipurpose room lift for use as an auditorium. There are no computer labs because technology is integrated into all learning spaces. The walls and hallways of the building are peppered with inspirational quotes, encouraging students and patrons alike to do their best and make a difference in the world. Portals that open into the habitats include intriguing signage regarding the animals that run, jump, swim and fly. Images of athletic activities serve to further inspire students. Odyssey was designed to bolster the educational pedagogy of the District through small learning communities focusing on a project-based curriculum. Each “habitat” includes 8 learning spaces and a central collaboration space. That goal translated into large collaboration spaces that are fully accessible to the learning spaces using 16-foot wide glass roll-up doors. These doors provide the instructor flexibility in instruction. They can expand their classroom into the collaboration space by opening the door, keep the door closed and still supervise a small group working in the collaboration space, and collaborate with multiple teachers across the collaboration space by opening multiple doors. The floor plan also provides the administration the flexibility to reconfigure grade levels into mini-academies, allowing for far easier cross-grade collaboration than in previously built schools. Inside the learning spaces, full height cabinets are whiteboard surfaced, serving as impromptu sketching and writing surfaces for students as they work together. Teachers on the planning committee agreed that the sinks normally found in the classroom could be relocated to the collaboration space, allowing the functional size of the classroom to expand. Similarly, all millwork is a more easily utilized 18” depth, returning useable square footage to the learning spaces. Furniture selected directly fosters a project based curriculum. It is all durable, yet light and on casters, so is easily reconfigurable to accommodate a variety of teaching methods. Students change seating types during the day, choosing between chairs, stools that encourage wiggling, soft ottomans and reconfigurable couches, standing at tables with an easy height adjustment, or of course the carpeted floor. Many of the tables incorporate a white board top that students utilize during their work, table tops which can be flipped up and stacked out of the way during activities that need more open space.

School DesignCafeteriaClassroomCommon SpaceEntranceGymnasiumMedia CenterPlaygroundsElementaryPhysical Education0-6 StudentsProject Based LearningColorNaturalSignageChairsTablesStools

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