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06-22-20 | Feature

Teaching Science Outdoors

Hawthorn Aspen Elementary Outdoor Science Classroom
by Daniel D. Dalziel, RLA, ASLA, 3D Design Studio

Located in the center of the campus courtyard is a compass rosette pointing out North, South, East, and West with a sundial created from the shadow cast by the flagpole.
Located in the center of the campus courtyard is a compass rosette pointing out North, South, East, and West with a sundial created from the shadow cast by the flagpole.
A solar system with scale models of each planet, influenced by NASA photos, were installed with plaques detailing the statistics and elements of each planet.
Engraved bricks used for the walkway form a timeline of the different ages of the Earth.

The Hawthorn Aspen Elementary Outdoor Classroom in Vernon Hills, Ill. began with the school district installing an addition to the "C-shaped" school building, creating a large courtyard in the center. The district asked 3D Design Studio to prepare a landscape plan for the central portion of the courtyard and when principal Dan Dalziel discovered the science classes looked onto the courtyard, he decided to make a science courtyard center for learning.

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Earth History Timeline
Design requirements included the need to connect the east and west doorways and an idea arose to have a timeline for the age of the Earth, currently estimated at 4.5 billion years old. Using dark red 12" x 6" wide pavers, each represented approximately 15 Million years. This allowed the creation of a "timeline" traversing the distance. Engraved bricks were installed with important biological developments in "to scale" incremental locations such as the introduction of single cell organisms, to the beginning of the dinosaurs and their extinction, to ultimately, at the very end of the 160'-8" timeline walk, Homosapiens appear.

Solar System
Providing an example of the Solar System was an important element of the courtyard. Each planet's diameter was calculated to the scale of the outdoor classroom's terraced seating, which represented the diameter of the Sun. The planets were built similar to boat construction for outdoor durability and weather resistant paint was used to represent likeness from NASA photos. A sign plaque was installed with statistics about the composition of each planet, its moons, rings, size, distance from the sun, density and atmosphere elements.

Sun Dial
A flagpole for the US flag sits at the center of the courtyard and it was decided to create a sundial with its shadow. Engraved pavers were installed to the correct positions of each hour on the dial. In addition, the length of the flagpole's shadow was calculated for how long it would be on both the Summer and Winter Solstice. Integrated within the paving design of the is a compass rosette.

As seen in LASN magazine, June 2020.

Filed Under: SCHOOLS, ARCHITECTURE, CAMPUSES, LASN

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