Washington DC

Capitol Hill Day School

Where Education Blends With Nature

status

Completed 2017

client

Capitol Hill Day School

expertise

Education

services

Landscape Architecture

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An Immersive Play-Based Learning Environment

Inspired by the school’s mission and values, the nature playscape at Capitol Hill Day School encourages active engagement with the natural environment.

Capitol Hill Day School (CHDS) is an independent, progressive pre-kindergarten through 8th grade school located in Washington DC. The school takes a unique approach to education, emphasizing the value of hands-on, experiential learning. CHDS sought to upgrade their main entrance and existing playground, and so partnered with LandDesign to transform the arrival experience into an active learning and play space that exemplifies the school’s mission and values.

LandDesign used natural materials to create a space that encourages unstructured play, builds community, and exemplifies the values students learn in the classroom. Each feature supports the school’s philosophies of discovery and challenge: connecting the classroom to the real world, teaching an integrated and learner-centered curriculum, and transcending academics–promoting social, emotional, and physical development.

Our Vision

An Unstructured Play Space for Learning, Growing, and Innovating

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LandDesign designed the playscape at CHDS to facilitate unstructured nature play, allowing children to interact meaningfully with their surroundings and foster curiosity about the natural environment. With the goal of creating a play space students of all ages can enjoy, the design incorporates the use of both traditional play equipment and natural materials. Natural elements such as boulders, tree stump steppers, and irregular bluestone paths create experiences for kids to interact with natural materials while building motor skills as they balance and climb. Loose elements such as sand, water, and wooden logs promote imagination and interactive play as children combine, move, and manipulate parts. A dry creek bed with a hand pump for water play lies adjacent to a sand pit, allowing the children to play with each feature individually or use buckets to bring water to the sand for expanded creative play options.

The children can make connections between the value of hands-on learning and collaboration through play elements such as sand, water, and mulch; emotional and social well-being through playhouse structures; respect for the environment by using natural materials; and imaginative play through the inclusion of interactive elements such as chalkboards, a stage platform, and moveable wooden logs.

The Challenge

A Place for Every Learner

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Catering to a diverse community of students ranging from ages 4 through 14, the CHDS entrance and play space design needed to appeal to a wide spectrum of interests and abilities. By utilizing unstructured play, the design team was able to create an experience that can be personalized based on the individual. With play equipment that ranges in level of ability, children can attempt risks, building confidence as they achieve new skills. Whether used for play, relaxation, or education, the playscape supports each child in developing the confidence, compassion, and intellectual capacity to succeed.

Our Approach

Extending the School’s Educational Methodology Through Design

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Physical

Create a welcoming front door that exemplifies the school’s mission and vision, emphasizing the value of creative self-guided play in the educational process

Functional

Provide an unstructured environment for children to explore, create, and discover

Social

Encourage interactions and active engagement with nature through an immersive play experience

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Physical

Create a welcoming front door that exemplifies the school’s mission and vision, emphasizing the value of creative self-guided play in the educational process

Homepage Header

Functional

Provide an unstructured environment for children to explore, create, and discover

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Social

Encourage interactions and active engagement with nature through an immersive play experience

Imaginations Run Free

The space's unstructured design invites children to think more freely, construct their own activities, and approach the world in creative ways