Over the next 20 years a large portion of our existing schools will either be replaced, substantially modified, or upfitted to meet the needs of the 21st Century students.  It is not only the school building that will be addressed, but how schools interact with the community surrounding them.  This new policy is evident with the growth of the “Walk to School” Movement. Parents and residents want schools to be embedded in the community.


This movement is part of a larger effort to retrofit suburbia and create compact, connected, pedestrian-oriented communities. The epicenter of this movement is the Atlanta Region.  This region is making an effort to retrofit by incorporating new ideas and sponsoring initiatives such as the Lifelong Community Initiative, by the Atlanta Regional Commission.


The template of the Learning Cottage meets the immediate need to retrofit suburbia. The model in the Atlanta Region depicts how the school can be integrated into the community at a neighborhood scale.  It also shows the flexibility of a Learning Cottage. With the Learning Cottage schools can incrementally grow over time.  If expansion is necessary a new Learning Cottage quadrangle can be easily added in a short time frame without  having to bring in mobile classrooms.


During the development phase of the Learning Cottage initiative there was a great deal of research done on the current learning environment in communities across the country.  This information was used to develop the Learning Cottage in an efficient manor, creating solutions for a host of issues.


Currently there are other initiatives that lead to the support of the Learning Cottage. These include:


Small Schools


Small schools have risen in popularity in the past few years through support by the Gates Foundation and proven to raise test scores in low performing schools. The small schools break down larger campuses into more compact learning environments, where students get more focused attention.

Learning Cottages work with this trend because they create a smaller scale learning environment, where eight classrooms can face a quadrangle and can act as a learning unit. Learning cottages can also be added in small segments to meet the demands of a smaller school.  


Charter Schools


The new influx of charter schools includes school organizing boards making building and curriculum decisions without many of the constraints of the state and local school boards. These schools must build quickly meet the demands of a rapidly growing school with a cost effective school building.  The Learning Cottage meets these demands and gives Charter schools another option when deciding which route to go when building a campus.



Community Involvement in Schools


With a growing interest in how are schools are built and designed by parents and community members the Learning Cottage provides a method of construction that can be framed in three days, with most of the construction being done off site.  This technique also allows for people not in the construction industry to participate in building the school.  This model is based off of the Habitat for Humanity Model. The Learning Cottage could be built as a Habitat for Community Model by using local help, local materials, and easy to assemble pre-constructed pieces.



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Director

Thomas E. Low 

AIA CNU LEED AICP NCARB