Site and Building Support Natural Play
Bringing nature to life
Located on the Outdoor Discovery Center’s Nature Preserve, Little Hawks Discovery Preschool is a nature-based preschool program for three and four-year-olds. Started as a partnership between Hamilton Community Schools and Outdoor Discovery Center Macatawa Greenway, the program had experienced tremendous growth, leading to lengthy waiting lists for students.
The existing preschool was comprised of a single room, which significantly limited enrollment opportunities. GMB worked with the Outdoor Discovery Center to determine the ideal site for the new preschool facility. The site adjacent to the existing preschool was chosen due to its position as a central hub for the entire Nature Preserve. It also enables the existing preschool facility to be converted to a daycare building to provide pre- and post-school care for students.
Both the site and the building work together to reinforce the students’ exploration of the natural world. The building is designed to support a curriculum that primarily takes place outdoors, reinforcing the principle that nature is the primary classroom, with the preschool building playing a secondary role.
The preschool building is sited to take advantage of its natural surroundings. Windows and doors can be opened to allow natural breezes and sounds to permeate the classroom. A large glass wall takes advantage of natural sunlight and also opens up the view from the classrooms to the outdoor play area and nearby pond.
Design and material decisions reinforce the connections to the surroundings; the roof form provides shading during summer months and channels rainwater into an expressive feature, capturing it and returning it to the earth. Building materials are intended to knit the building into the surrounding landscape and existing architecture on the campus.
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