Location: Montague, Michigan
This 40,000 s.f. early childhood center was designed to consolidate several educational programs into one facility: kindergarten, young fives, head start, early childhood special education, daycare, tuition, and great start programs.
The new site is located on an existing 60 acre campus that contains the high and middle schools, and a transportation/maintenance center. The new school is isolated from the existing schools by a heavily forested area. A bus drop-off drive is located on the north side, and a parent drop-off and staff/visitor parking lot is located on the south. A large playground is located west of the building and is surrounded by the forest.
The main concourse welcomes visitors/parents at one end, and bus drop-off at the opposite end. It features a tall wavy roof structure that resembles a caterpillar from the exterior. The interior walls of the concourse feature sculptural wall tiles that encourage students to interact with the artwork by seeing and feeling the different colors and textures. The clerestory windows provide a comforting atmosphere through exposure to natural daylight.
Adjacent to the main concourse is a large multipurpose room equipped with high ceilings and folding walls. This room mainly serves as the cafeteria, but can also be used for gym classes, music classes, and public presentations. The room can be divided into two or three separate spaces by closing one or both motorized folding walls. Adjacent to the main concourse is another specialty room dedicated to science and art programs, known as the discovery room.
The north academic wing has five kindergarten classrooms and three young fives classrooms. All classrooms are equipped with large window areas with light shelves to bounce natural light onto the classroom ceilings. Exterior window louvers protect the lower window sections from heat gain in the summer months. Photo-sensors on the light controls shut-off fluorescent room lights when natural lighting reaches pre-set levels. All lower windows are operable and feature internal shading blinds. Cabinets in the classrooms extend from the floor to the ceiling, providing generous amounts of storage for the teachers' and students' personal items. Each classroom includes a barrier-free toilet room, with an additional sink in the classroom, as well as a separate storage room.
Classrooms located in the south wing are dedicated to programs for the younger and special needs children, including great start, head start, special education, tuition, and kids stop. These classrooms offer the same features as the north wing classrooms and are located near the parent drop-off for ease of accessibility for both children and parents.
The playground features a wide variety of equipment for students to play on while impacting their developmental skills in a positive way. There are three separate play areas for three different age groups, each with age appropriate playground equipment. The cushioned play surface significantly helps to decrease the amount of injuries incurred on a playground. A two-lane track is built-in for the tricycle riders. The new playground has become a community favorite that parents and children can enjoy year-round.