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Buckingham Primary + Elementary Schools Buckingham County Public Schools


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Buckingham County Public Schools Buckingham Primary + Elementary Schools


Buckingham County Public Schools Buckingham Primary + Elementary Schools

Project Overview Two former Virginia mid-century schools have been re-fashioned as a modern learning campus for K-5 students with the aim to promote connectivity, creativity, health, and well-being. In order to transform two existing, mid-century schools into a vibrant K-5 campus, the design team carefully integrated strategies in architecture, interior design, graphic design, and landscape architecture to support healthy behaviors and attitudes among students and community members. Inside, the K-5 campus features a reconceived, central dining commons that serves as a source of food-based education. Outside, grade-level appropriate gardens and play terraces encourage place-based learning and engagement with nature. With the support of the school district, the project team created a holistic indoor-outdoor learning environment that supports the physical and mental well being of the school community and fosters “food smart� children. In collaboration with public health researchers, the design team co-authored healthy eating and physical activity design guidelines (HEDG and PADG) as an antidote to the childhood obesity epidemic (published, respectively by the CDC in 2012 and PLOS ONE in 2015). These replicable design guidelines provide research-based strategies for school planners, architects, and educators to use in promoting healthy eating and physical activity as school-based obesity prevention. This design-research collaboration has yielded a healthy, LEED Gold school that is contributing evidence towards our collective understanding of the intimate connections between architecture, health, learning environments, and academic success.

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Buckingham County Public Schools Buckingham Primary + Elementary Schools

Campus Entry Piazza


Buckingham County Public Schools Buckingham Primary + Elementary Schools

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Buckingham County Public Schools Buckingham Primary + Elementary Schools

Site Initiatives

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The campus landscape abounds with sustainable education opportunities that support the curriculum.

The existing school campus was re-designed as a 14-acre sustainable landscape that promotes

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active and diverse opportunities for play, exercise, and learning to serve 1,000 children in grades K-5. Themed around health, the school highlights natural ecologies and local resources to spark environmental awareness, stewardship opportunities, and hands-on active learning. The campus landscape abounds with sustainable education opportunities that support the curriculum. Edible plants supplement the lunch menu and allow students to learn the science of horticulture. A pollinator garden teaches students about native pollinating insects vital to our ecosystem. A science garden based on a 3-5 year succession cycle demonstrates the seasonal shifts of the Virginia Piedmont. Drawing inspiration from the outdoor landscape, native species of Virginia trees are incorporated and identified in indoor learning areas, imaginatively blurring distinctions between interior and exterior educational settings. Sustainable material choices highlight local natural resources and prompt teachable moments. Gardens feature plant species found in the Piedmont region of Virginia, native grasses and wildflowers replace maintenance-heavy mown turf, and Buckingham slate and local kyanite appear prominently in the campus’ exterior and interior details. A unique use of slate is found in the slatelined stormwater conveyance channel which cuts through the school’s entry piazza, revealing the stone beneath the earth’s surface. The channel visibly measures the size of storm events, so students can understand the occurrence and volume of water associated with each storm.

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Buckingham County Public Schools Buckingham Primary + Elementary Schools

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Plan Key 1

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Entry Courtyard

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3-5 Play Terrace

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Academic Gardens

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Naturalized Meadow Grass

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Walking Paths

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Pollinator Garden

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Picnic Knoll

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Large Playfields

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Rain Gardens

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Frog Bog & Observation Deck

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Composting & Dirt Lab

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Sonata Music Garden

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Tot Lot Natural Play Area

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Dining & Classroom Terraces

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K-2 Play Terrace

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Edible Gardens

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Buckingham County Public Schools Buckingham Primary + Elementary Schools


Buckingham County Public Schools Buckingham Primary + Elementary Schools

Space Matters The design takes advantage of every space and surface to support teaching and learning inside and outside the classroom.

The project team worked collaboratively to design a total learning environment that supports the whole child. The color palette and daylighting opportunities were carefully considered and modulated to express nearby natural contexts, such as a pine and oak forest habitat, the Chesapeake Bay watershed, and small-scale garden courtyards. Throughout the campus, the color palette is integral to reinforcing grade-level identity, enhancing indoor-outdoor connections, communicating wayfinding techniques, encouraging the use of collaborative learning spaces, and promoting psychological health and wellbeing.

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Buckingham County Public Schools Buckingham Primary + Elementary Schools

“Our school has the wonderful opportunity to set an example for the community by showcasing the benefits of good nutrition and exercise. Our use of the outdoor spaces for gardening and the food lab and teaching kitchen for hands-on learning related to nutrition will provide real problem-solving experiences for kids that will result in unforgettable learning.�

Pe nni e Alle n, Fo rm e r P ri nc i p al B u c k i ng h am C o u nty P ri m ar y S c h o o l


Buckingham County Public Schools Buckingham Primary + Elementary Schools

“This is the greatest green school I've ever seen. It is fully integrated with the educational program and serves as a pedagogical tool. VMDO does a great job at partnering with educators to ensure the educational aspect is a leading thought, not an afterthought.� R ac h el G u t t er Direc t o r C e nte r fo r Green S c h o o l s

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Buckingham County Public Schools Buckingham Primary + Elementary Schools


Buckingham County Public Schools Buckingham Primary + Elementary Schools

Environments that Inspire The design of the school strives to tap into the inherent intelligence of students to inspire a sense of well-being and a love of learning.

The K-5 campus incorporates new and renovated spaces meant to inspire students and prompt inquiry and exploration. In addition to core homerooms, each grade level has access to two small-group learning labs that transform everyday circulation paths into “learning streets.” Child-centered learning areas, reading nooks, and breakout-spaces found off of these “streets” inspire creative exploration through intimately scaled furniture, soft seating, and beautiful colors that activate thought and play while reinforcing grade-level identity within open learning spaces. The design of the school strives to tap into the inherent intelligence of students to inspire a sense of well-being and a love of learning. The building works to make ‘all things seem possible’ by rendering educational moments visible and celebrating learning in all its diverse forms.

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Finding Your Way The campus' color system, graphic identity, and branded wayfinding communicate playful and sophisticated themes related to sustainability, health, and energy conservation.

Wayfinding techniques and grade-level signage bring the natural environment to life for students. Moving west to east, from the Primary to Elementary School, the campus’ wayfinding follows the progression of Virginia’s geography (mountains to ocean) and assigns a habitat, or biome, to each grade. Classroom signage features a grade-level color, biome icon, and related native species found in that habitat of Virginia. While the Primary School is associated with warm colors and terrestrial species, the Elementary School features cool colors and aquatic species. This branding encourages grade-level identity and helps students form relationships with the surrounding natural environment, which they will one day inherit. While the campus houses healthy prompts in its design details, the signage and wayfinding render these prompts and learning opportunities explicit. Campus graphics reinforce the theme of health by strategically scattering inquiry-based facts about human and environmental systems throughout the school. Stairways, water fountains, healthy food options, and sustainable building materials, co-located with related facts and lessons, become design interventions prompting discussion about health and sustainability.


Primary School: Virginia Land Eco-Regions

Buckingham County Public Schools Buckingham Primary + Elementary Schools

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Virginia Mountains

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Virginia Forests

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Virginia Prairies

Elementary School: Virginia Water Eco-Regions

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Virginia Wetlands

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Virginia Rivers

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Virginia Oceans

Grade Level Wayfinding + Identity

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Buckingham County Public Schools Buckingham Primary + Elementary Schools


Buckingham County Public Schools Buckingham Primary + Elementary Schools

Learning Space Program 14 Second Floor

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Primary School

Elementary School

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First Floor

3 GREAT

8 GARDENS

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ARTS

1 10 FE E T

100 FEET

K-2 SCIENCE

LAWN

GARDEN

MUSIC

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SLATE

GARDEN

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PLAZA 185 FEET

265 FEET

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3-5 SCIENCE

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TERRACE

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RECEPTION

1 Elementary ELEMENTARY School SCHOOL

PRIMARY SCHOOL Primary School

Studios

1 Administration

8 Art

Art + Music Studios

2 Community Meeting Room

9 Gymnasium

Shared Learning Hubs

3 Dining Commons

10 Library

Small Group Learning

4 Food Lab

11 Reading Terrace

Teacher Collaboration

5 Kitchen Lab

12 Media Lab

Learning Streets

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Dining Terrace

13 Woodland Hub

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Music

14 Grade Breakout Spaces

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Dining Commons The dining commons serves the heart of the community by re-orienting school breakfast and lunch within the context of a healthy food-based learning environment. The dining commons is an enriched learning environment that serves as a shared, connecting space between the primary and elementary schools, and with the wider community. The commons includes a teaching kitchen, innovative food and nutritional displays, open serveries that promote demonstration cooking, a food lab/lounge for small group labs and catering, a scratch bakery, dehydrating food composter, natural daylight, flexible seating arrangements, an outdoor student dining terrace, and kitchen gardens. The commercial kitchen in particular was designed to provide an important educational experience – retaining key food service functions while allowing students visual access to the kitchen as they move through the “open� serving lines. The transparent treatment of food in the school, from the gardens to the open serveries, allows students to gain awareness about how their food grows, how it is prepared in the kitchen, and how it fuels them in their activity and learning. These educational opportunities are creating shifts in food culture and improving student health and well-being.

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Kitchen Garden

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Outdoor Lab

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Teaching Kitchen

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Composting Tray Drop

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Open Kitchen

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Corner Bakery

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Social Hall

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Food Lab / Lounge

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Community Meeting Hall

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Buckingham County Public Schools Buckingham Primary 9+ Elementary Schools

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Buckingham County Public Schools Buckingham Primary + Elementary Schools


Buckingham County Public Schools Buckingham Primary + Elementary Schools

Food Literacy Creating school food environments that facilitate healthy eating among children is a recommended national strategy to help prevent and reduce childhood obesity. School design is known to impact student behavior, development, and academic performance. VMDO oversaw and supported the designs for architecture, interior spaces, graphics and wayfinding, and landscaping with the understanding that such design decisions can impact school practices and, subsequently, healthy eating behaviors among children and even community members. The design-research team developed and incorporated these healthy eating design strategies in the Buckingham campus: •

Design spaces that facilitate the incorporation of fresh and healthy food choices into the school.

Design facilities that engage the school community in food production and preparation.

Apply evidence- and theory-based behavioral science principles to “nudge” the school community towards healthy-eating behaviors and attitudes.

Use building and landscape features to promote awareness of healthy and sustainable food practices.

Conceive and articulate school spaces as community assets to multiply the benefits of school-based healthy food initiatives.

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Health + Wellness Using the built environment to inspire, nudge, and prompt health and wellness, the school's design transmits a new level of awareness that extends beyond school walls. The campus’ design supports the health of students and the environment by incorporating sustainable features. Natural daylight from windows is supplemented with environmentallyfriendly Solatube™ daylight harvesting found in ceilings and light louvers in classrooms. A water-source heat pump system supports energy-efficient heating and cooling of the school, and innovative stormwater strategies integrate green space, native landscaping, and natural hydrologic functions to generate less runoff on the site. A LEED Gold school, the project has also achieved the LEED “Design for Active Occupants” credit. Using the built environment to inspire, nudge, and prompt health and wellness, the school's architecture and educational signage transmit a new level of awareness that extends beyond school walls. As emerging health stewards, students can impart new values to their communities and bring about a shift in culture over time. In this way, the Buckingham project offers a new manifestation of “school” as a community asset, a “health oasis,” and a teaching tool for a community’s youngest learners that can support transformational change over time.


Buckingham County Public Schools Buckingham Primary + Elementary Schools

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Buckingham County Public Schools Buckingham Primary + Elementary Schools


Buckingham County Public Schools Buckingham Primary + Elementary Schools

“If we can make healthy eating and physical activity the easy and default option in the school environment, we will help children practice a healthy lifestyle without making it seem like work. Over time, healthy lifestyles become healthy habits that endure. The key to obesity prevention is to work across multiple levels from individual children to parents, schools, and the community, simultaneously.� D r. Te rr y T- K H u ang , P h D , M P H , C P H , P ro fe s s o r o f P ub l ic Hea l t h Re s e arc h C o llab o rato r o n B u c k i ng h a m Pro j ec t

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Buckingham County Public Schools Buckingham Primary + Elementary Schools

Movement + Activity Physical design elements such as circulation hallways, open gathering spaces, and outdoor gardens and play terraces encourage movement and interaction among the school community.

Accommodating movement and encouraging learning through flexible, customizable spaces – inside and out – were strategies employed by the design team to increase engagement, concentration, and health among students. Physical design elements such as circulation hallways, open gathering spaces, and outdoor gardens and play terraces encourage movement and interaction among the school community. On a smaller scale, specific features such as cushioned gym floors, well ventilated and naturally lit classrooms, and flexible furniture allowing for easy arrangement and adjustment support movement and enhance the learning experience for students. The Buckingham campus integrates healthy eating and physical activity/movement design guidelines. As such, the project serves as a powerful example of how an "active building" can promote a range of healthy behaviors, including physical activity, healthy eating, and social and community engagement. All of these active strategies foster connectivity, encourage healthy programming, and support life-long healthy habits and a sense of wellbeing. This holistic design approach, published as Healthy Eating and Physical Activity Design Guidelines (HEDG and PADG) respectively, has undergone a 2-year longitudinal mix method research analysis by public health researchers, resulting in numerous peer-reviewed publications. This literature translates research findings into new practical tools to support healthy design and suggest future directions for transdisciplinary research.


Buckingham County Public Schools Buckingham Primary + Elementary Schools

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VMDO Architects 200 E Market St Charlottesville, Va 22902 434.296.5684 vmdo.com

For more information on K-12 Education work please contact:

For more information on Buckingham Primary + Elementary please contact:

Bob Moje, FAIA, LEED AP moje@vmdo.com

Dina Sorensen, LEED AP sorensen@vmdo.com

Wyck Knox, AIA, LEED AP knox@vmdo.com

Buckingham County Primary + Elementary Schools  
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