It Seems Like This Elementary School Is the Future of Education

Every year, kindergarteners arrive at education facilities for the first time and many of them burst into tears because of separation anxiety. However, it wasn’t nearly as frightening for first-year students at one new Pittsburgh-area school this year. Tracy Vitale, superintendent of the suburban Seneca Valley School District, only saw only kid crying, and when Vitale led her to the colorful, winding ramp that curls up the center of the school, the child instantly cheered up.

Seneca Valley’s Ehrman Crest

K-6 students at Seneca Valley’s Ehrman Crest Elementary and Middle Schools are benefiting from an unusual collaboration. The $63 million project, which took 790 days to complete, was collaborated on by school leaders, architects, and the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh. The 200,000-square-foot facility, which has a student capacity of 1,400, takes a novel approach, foregoing the traditional school design in favor of the interactive, playful, and colorful elements of a children’s museum.

Public schools and the Children’s Museum both had the same goal, which was to provide education for children but the methods and paths they took were vastly different. Michael Corb is the architect behind the project. He says that public schools should be doing it like Children’s Museum.

The Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh, which opened in 1983 on the city’s North Side, receives over 300,000 visitors each year. It’s well-known for its innovative, interactive, and multilayered play elements. The Makeshop, where kids can play, create, and design using processes like woodworking; Waterplay, where kids can get a little wet while doing activities involving spray, ice, and rain, and the Limb Bender, a stacked maze where kids can crawl and climb, are all popular areas of the museum.

The Future of Education

The Ehrman Crest difference is visible from the front entrance, where children can watch water dribble from a roof funnel down a rain chain. Signs with intriguing features provide prompts rather than definitions, and they are intended to inspire more students to collaborate with their teachers and classmates.

The giant, twisting ramp inside the main lobby has magnetic walls that display colorful geometric shapes. From the top landing, you can peek through small windows into kindergarten areas with whimsical lights and soft benches in fun colors like navy blue and lime green. Kindergarteners can see older students in action through a glass wall that overlooks the middle school cafeteria.

Rooftop Gardens and More

Outside the kindergarten classrooms, children can access rooftop gardens, where they can grow plants such as lettuce in the spring, as well as a “merry-go-pedal” playground structure with small bikes instead of horses. Gardening will be done at a few different locations on campus by students of all grade levels.

Erhman Crest is known for its colorful, quirky, and incredibly comfortable furniture. Teachers were free to choose their own furniture and personalize their surroundings. Moving partitions and furniture in the classrooms promote student collaboration and hands-on education. Desks are curved-edge tables that can move and connect. They can also function as whiteboards. According to district officials, the classroom design focuses on flexibility and how every space can connect together for the sake of education.

Ehrman Crest really looks like a place that’s the future of elementary and middle school education, with corridors and rooms filled with smiling children.