cultivating minds at las animas middle school - a chf MSOLE grant recipient

las animas middle school, located just outside of la junta colorado in the southeast corner of the state is one of two schools to be selected and awarded funding for the Colorado Health Foundations (CHF) MSOLE grant. we met las animas mid 2015 through our partner grant with the CHF, and immediately were connected to the small town lifestyle and more than deserving school. since then, we have engaged the community, school administrative staff and students to get to know the school – in the hopes of providing them an exciting and playful outdoor learning environment. just last week, we finalized the design development package and are on track to move forward with construction drawings in the next few months. 

the design itself is inspired by the dominant landscape patterns of drainages and cultivation. the forms and patterns associated with agriculture and waterways have been integrated to encourage play, gathering and learning. prominent features of the design include the social spine, outdoor classroom, tree grove, circular lawn, hard court, and play pit.

the social spine bridges the design while creating a shaded place for gathering and learning. water is an important aspect of this project and the design resolves drainage issues with meaningful and educational opportunities by showing how water moves through the site. the drainage from the school roofs is collected, directed, and celebrated through this spine. the spine is raised up to create seating for and separation between play areas and the outdoor classroom.

a centrally located outdoor classroom offers a multi-generational spot where teachers and parents can supervise students or hold class under the shade structure. the outdoor classroom is carved into the spine and offers terraced seating. this area can also be used as a place for community social gatherings, picnics and weekend recreation. 

the entry tree grove from the south, the circular lawn, the hard court, and play pit are shaped and inspired by the patterns of cultivated fields and irrigated crop circles.  a gently sloping play surface separates the play pit from the hard court and provides a secondary access to the social spine.  the versatile circular lawn to the south accommodates free play such as volleyball and kicking around a soccer ball. a walking loop paralleling the site drainage ways encourages physical activity for students and residents of the community.  people using this loop can measure the distance they walk by counting the rest stations that are marked by boulders.  

these forms and activities are meant to activate the site and provide meaningful places for students and the community to play, learn and interact. stay tuned for project updates as we move forward to construction in the spring!

Carlin Bartlett