A Learning Environment That Embraces The Natural World
McLoughlin Middle School and Marshall Elementary School
McLoughlin Middle School and Marshall Elementary School share a new 199,000 sf building, designed by LSW Architects. McLoughlin supports roughly 900 students, while Marshall has around 420, including 100 students from the district’s pre-kindergarten special education program. LSW worked closely with students, teachers, and the community to create a space that supports the diversity of the student body and learning methods. This includes a range of classroom sizes and configurations created to meet the needs of students in the pre-kindergarten and special education programs.
Vancouver Public Schools
Both McLoughlin Middle School and Marshall Elementary School are part of Vancouver Public Schools’ $458 million bond campaign that passed in 2017, which funded new and upgraded schools throughout the district.
From the onset of this project, the team looked to the natural world surrounding the school for inspiration and reflected this through the design of both schools. The use of wood, as well as natural textures and colors, elevates this idea by serving the project in a variety of powerful ways that link directly to students: as an essential structural component, across the playground, and woven into aesthetics.
Visual and physical access to the outdoors is prevalent across campus, with multiple wings of classrooms that are separated by gardens and the surrounding treelines. The extensive use of Cross Laminated Timber (CLT) and natural materials that mirror the exterior creates a multi-sensory experience with nature. A combination of these efforts supports a calming, relaxed, and environmentally conscious experience at the schools.
While both schools operate independently and focus on their respective student populations, they are linked together at the spine to share resources like the media center and kitchen. The overlapping theme of dedicated spaces and connectedness is an important undertone that runs throughout the campus, as it seeks to honor what is unique about its diverse student population while creating a shared sense of pride and ownership in the site.
In all classrooms in the middle and elementary school, we have created spaces for specialized equipment and facilities (such as kitchens and bathrooms), to more fully integrate students enrolled in Special Education.
Other key features include in-classroom bathrooms and optimized acoustics to manage outside distraction. Specially-designed playgrounds and courtyards provide an outdoor location for kids to challenge themselves in a safe environment. Additionally, a specially designed drop-off area for Pre-K and Special Education was also created to give students a user-friendly way to enter and leave, as well as alleviate any congestion.
The mix of specialized pockets and open community spaces is a common idea that runs through both campuses. The intention is to be flexible and able to accommodate a diverse range of needs.
Learning can happen in a classroom, in collaborative shared spaces and in specially designed outdoor spaces. The classrooms are organized into learning community clusters with both teacher and student collaboration spaces and specialized maker and fabrication spaces interspersed.