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Coppell Independent School District (ISD) had big ideas: a new learning environment with a cutting-edge education system that could support individual learners. That meant a design that did things differently than the past. After a visioning process, they had three goals: to reduce limitations and inspire innovation, to celebrate fun and authentic learning experiences through sustainable practices, and to create collaboration, connection, and active learning. Richard J. Lee Elementary School is the first big step in Coppell ISD’s vision.

net zero

Lee Elementary is the first net-zero elementary school in Texas.

percent more

By eliminating corridors, the students benefit from 39% more learning space than a traditional school design would offer.

solar panels

Solar panels on the roof help make Lee Elementary energy efficient and environmentally sound.

In challenge-based learning, the learners (students) take responsibility for their education, and the designers (teachers) are there to facilitate.

Change of scenery

Something different is happening inside Lee Elementary—challenge-based learning.

This type of education focuses on each individual’s learning style. Learners are presented with a challenge, and then they choose what methods they’ll use to overcome it.

A diverse selection of learning zones lets students work in groups of varying sizes, and the open-concept plan lets them move fluidly between options while also promoting informal supervision.

We designed the school to specifically support the flexibility that challenge-based learning promotes.

Find your house

Rather than the conventional organization of classrooms by grade, the learners (students) at Lee Elementary are grouped into learning houses.

Each of the five houses has four classrooms, five small rooms for collaborative work, an open area with casual seating, two labs, and a professional home-base where designers (teachers) share office space.

A house is made up of learners from Kindergarten to grade five, and it’s supported by six designers engaged with all of their students. The bonus? The learners and designers all know each other: they’re in the same neighborhood.

This community approach focuses on needs rather than age. If a fifth grader is falling behind in math, they could do some recovery with the fourth graders. If a second grader is reading at a third grade level, they can sit with the third graders.

With this model of flexibility and stability, Lee Elementary creates a comfortable atmosphere for learners as they move through their education, day to day and year to year.

Net-zero design principles helped this school achieve a LEED Gold certification. With a compact design, less exterior wall, and careful directional siting, we reduced the amount of energy needed to run the school.

Striking a balance

As the first net-zero elementary school in Texas, Lee Elementary is dedicated to producing as much energy as it consumes.

Daylight harvesting through reflective ceiling tubes and large windows enables natural light to fill 90% of the school, meaning less energy is needed for illumination.

The school uses less electricity than an ASHRAE compliant design, and the electricity it does use is offset by solar panels.

With rainwater collection (for plumbing and irrigation) and a geothermal heating and cooling system, Lee Elementary is breaking even—and ahead of the curve.

Transcript of the video follows
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<p>The current educational model that Coppell ISD had been dealing with was one that really focused on the teacher as the keeper of all knowledge. And what they were finding, is even though they had really smart kids and lots of high expectations in the school district, they felt that they weren’t giving the students all the opportunities that they had available to them.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The new educational model that Coppell ISD has taken on is one of challenge-based learning. Challenge-based learning is really about the teacher and the students coming together, identifying what the challenge is, and then the students and the teacher working together to identify how they’re going to get there.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The unique expertise that Stantec is bringing to Coppell Independent School District is: one, our focus on education, but also our passion for understanding instruction and how students learn—which means before we start designing it becomes important for us to know how they’re going to deliver instruction.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Breaking down the walls of the traditional classroom, providing space for students to go outside the classroom so they’re not confined to a desk and a chair, and it also means that the walls need to be more open so that you can see what’s happening from one place to the other. For teachers to be able to see what their students are doing, but also to see when they need to provide that support for them.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Breakout rooms are being provided for smaller groups, the flexibility of walls that can open and close, furniture that’s flexible, all these things are needed throughout the entire district to support that learning model that they’re trying to incorporate.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Coppell ISD is taking this model of challenge-based learning and moving it forward in other parts of the district. It’s one that they’re replicating in the middle school that’s being designed right now, that we’re working on. Where the students from the elementary school will go.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It’s been hugely successful, it’s a design that they’re wanting to emulate across the district, and it’s a design that the principal at the middle school is excited to be able to continue, to continue a model that the students are really comfortable with.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Students and community both are going to benefit from the design that we’ve created at Lee Elementary School. The building is much more progressive, much more open, and much more intriguing. This is going to provide opportunities to learn in ways that they haven’t, it’s going to be more relevant to the students, so ultimately you’re going to end up with a more educated community.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I’m Terry Hoyle, principle in charge out of the Plano office of Stantec, and Richard J. Lee Elementary school is my passion, it’s what I come to work for.&nbsp;</p>

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Terry Hoyle
Terry Hoyle

Learning is on display everywhere, both inside and out in a school that makes learning fun.… Read More

Tom Oehler
Vice President
Tom Oehler
Vice President

The architecture of Lee Elementary has broken down the barriers of traditional learning to create a facility that invites engagement and collaboration.… Read More

Michael Elmore
Associate, Senior Project Manager
Michael Elmore
Associate, Senior Project Manager

To see the students at Lee Elementary learn in a creative, flexible environment that strengthens their individual learning experience is quite rewarding.… Read More

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