Schools/Education

Published on November 9th, 2017 |

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New Primary Learning Center transforming Atlanta International School campus

By Renee Turner

Construction of a new $14.6 million Primary Learning Center building has begun on the 15 plus-acre campus of Atlanta International School (AIS) in Buckhead, which is phase 1 of the school’s “Think Forward Campaign” designed to transform the learning environment and educational experience of all Pre-K to Grade 12 students.

Atlanta International School Headmaster Kevin Glass

A private, non-profit, International Baccalaureate (IB) Continuum School from 3K through Grade 12, AIS has over 90 nationalities speaking more than 60 languages represented in its multicultural community of faculty and student body of 1,220.

“The new Primary Learning Center (PLC) will be for all students K-5 and will complement our 100 percent language immersion Early Learning Center (ELC) and allow all our students to engage in design-thinking, project-based problem solving across the STEAM family of disciplines in our IB Primary Years Program (PYP),” said AIS Headmaster Kevin Glass.

Being STEAM-based (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics), IB PYP students are involved in solving problems through design thinking and by forming creative collaborative teams in a unique diverse environment.

“All of our students are learning through the lens of more than one language, beginning with 100 percent language immersion in our ELC for our 3K and 4K students in French, German, Spanish, and [beginning in] August 2018, Mandarin,” he added. “They carry on learning in and through two languages from 5K through Grade 5.”

AIS has also launched, this school year, six new Heritage Languages: Italian, Greek, Dutch, Farsi, Hindi and Arabic as a co-curricular program.

The new PLC building, which is scheduled to open in August of 2018,  helps the school launch a new Mandarin Language Program 3K – Grade 5 with full immersion in 3K and 4K in ELC; then switching to a Mandarin/English program for 5K – Grade 5. The program then joins the established Mandarin Program for Grades 6 through 12 in secondary school.

Architectural rendering of the new AIS Primary Learning Center building.

Phases 1 and 2 are the completion of a master plan on campus by creating new spaces to ensure the entire campus becomes what Glass calls a “third teacher,” in a sense for all students and doesn’t look at the new faculty as just a building.

Phase 2 of the Think Forward Campaign will involve “the creation of a “Co-Lab” for secondary school. This will be a laboratory for creative collaboration, project- and performance-based learning, digital media, design, robotics and research.

“This will allow the students to engage in the kind of 21st century learning—that they naturally want to do and will be using for the rest of their lives in college and in the world of work,” Glass stated.

Glass thinks what makes the PLC unique is a combination of:

  • Design spaces serving as a third teacher immersing students in collaborative creative learning, design thinking, and STEAM projects;
  • Building learning through diversity among students, faculty and families creating a multicultural mix through the IB’s Primary Years Program;
  • All students learning together through more than one language with experienced IB PYP educators; and,
  • An excellent teacher/student ratio along with Atlanta International School’s 30+ years of experience.

Glass praised the Lord, Aeck and Sargent architecture firm for the project, stating, “They have been excellent partners in imagining and designing those flexible, creative, collaborative, STEAM-rich learning spaces that will allow our students to learn and our teachers to coach and facilitate their learning in preparation for the lives they will lead in the rest of this century.”  Overseeing construction of the building is SG Contracting.

Josh Andrews, design architect on the project, said LAS’s approach to this type of project is to “accommodate a wide range of learning styles and projects types by embracing all spaces as opportunities for learning.”

Andrews explained, “The idea of the ‘classroom’ is expanded to include natural, light-filled, flexible leaning spaces beyond the four walls of the classroom. Spaces directly off of the classroom allow students to explore ideas in small group settings, which is critical to project-based learning. The space provides ample opportunities to collaborate outside via outdoor learning patios or the central courtyard. This direct access is critical to the success of the curriculum, and the architecture supports that mission,” he added.

Andrews sees one major challenge for the project. The current Primary School is spread across multiple buildings. The new building stitches together those buildings and creates a connected Primary School campus while respecting the existing architecture style by using similar materials and proportions. The glass entryway connector serves as a front door.

“The campus is enriched through specific unifying spaces in the project that help to create a sense of community within the Primary School campus,” Andrews stated. “Gathering spaces like the makerspace, the cafeteria (created within the existing building), the outdoor courtyard, and the entry connector all contribute to creating the inclusive environment that is a hallmark of AIS.”

Makerspaces allow individuals to gather together to network, share ideas, knowledge, and resources; work on projects through design, creating and/or building in a physical space.

For Headmaster Glass, what makes the new building a state-of-the-art facility is combination of new spaces including flexible learning spaces, a learning commons, makerspaces, indoor and outdoor learning spaces, the re-engineering of existing spaces, and light. Plus, the programmatic offerings in the IB PYP in a diverse community providing more than one language.

Atlanta International School is located in the Garden Hills neighborhood at 2890 North Fulton Drive in Buckhead. For more information, visit Atlanta International School.

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