Creating a Moonshot: Designing Discovery Elementary School

06.15.16

“As a staff, we focus more on how do students learn and how can we enhance their experiences with this tremendous space.” - Erin Russo, Discovery Elementary School Principal

We checked in with Arlington Public Schools' John Chadwick (Assistant Superintendent, Facilities and Operations) and Discovery Elementary School's Erin Russo (Principal) about the challenges and rewards of designing such an inspiring new school. The end result is an adaptable, energizing space that allows teachers to use the classrooms and common areas to truly enhance the learning experience.

The result of a community-based design process, the project tiers into an existing hill to both minimize the perception of its size in a residential neighborhood, and to preserve open, flat space for recreation. Small “kinder-houses” face 36th Street, extending out from underneath a large cedar roof that defines the public spaces of the school.

The school was designed to be a “net zero” energy building, meaning that the amount of energy provided by on-site renewable energy sources is equal to the amount of energy used. Discovery Elementary is anticipated to become the first net zero energy school in Mid-Atlantic and the largest in the United States.

“As a staff, we focus more on how do students learn and how can we enhance their experiences with this tremendous space.” - Erin Russo, Discovery Elementary School Principal

We checked in with Arlington Public Schools' John Chadwick (Assistant Superintendent, Facilities and Operations) and Discovery Elementary School's Erin Russo (Principal) about the challenges and rewards of designing such an inspiring new school. The end result is an adaptable, energizing space that allows teachers to use the classrooms and common areas to truly enhance the learning experience.

The result of a community-based design process, the project tiers into an existing hill to both minimize the perception of its size in a residential neighborhood, and to preserve open, flat space for recreation. Small “kinder-houses” face 36th Street, extending out from underneath a large cedar roof that defines the public spaces of the school.

The school was designed to be a “net zero” energy building, meaning that the amount of energy provided by on-site renewable energy sources is equal to the amount of energy used. Discovery Elementary is anticipated to become the first net zero energy school in Mid-Atlantic and the largest in the United States.