When I first began my senior capstone research I knew two things.
My passion for education
My experiences as someone with a physical disability
With these two things in my mind, I knew that I wanted to look at creating a school based on an alternative education curriculum that would be beneficial for a diverse group of students. Students of color and students with disabilities are typically ignored in traditional public schools. Research has shown that these two populations of students have excelled in Montessori education, and outperformed their peers in lecture-based classrooms. This led me to my project question: How Might We use Public Montessori Education to Improve the Lives of Diverse Children?
Montessori focuses on the individual growth of a child and what learning path they want to take, not what a teacher demands of them. My concept is milestones: celebrating the individuality in a child’s growth. This concept led me in every choice I made and my focus on creating a child-led space that doesn’t force a child to conform to one standard.
My site location is the Washington Addition neighborhood in Jackson, MS. Mississippi has one of the highest rates for children with disabilities living in poverty. Mississippi has the highest rate of food insecurity in America. With a neighborhood in need I realized as I began designing that although a school would be beneficial for some of the community, those without children also need a space. That’s why I chose to make this space into a community center, as well, after school hours and on weekends. The Makerspace and STEM lab would hold classes; the media center would also provide technology rental, and there would be a space for food and clothes donations and pickups. I also created a laundry space for the community since Jackson, MS is going through a clean water crisis currently.
The addition of a community center program created a new challenge for me. How could I create a space that is focused on a child’s experience while also drawing in community members? On the first floor, the only space community members would be permitted, I lowered my soffits and raised them in increments as someone walks down the hallway. I wanted to create a smaller space for the children to feel comfortable in when entering the hallways since they were less familiar with the second floor of their classrooms. In these hallways, I also created sensorial pause points to bring the Montessori curriculum outside of the classroom. On the second floor, I did the reverse for my soffits, starting taller and then lowering. This is because the children would feel more confident in this space, and also for wayfinding. I used color-coding for my classrooms to allow children to navigate this space on their own. I curved my walls and entries for not only safety reasons, but to allow a natural flow from one space to the next — encouraging children to explore and take ownership of their school.
Interior Architecture- Large Scale (>5,000 sf)