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image Project: Montessori School of Maui

Montessori School of Maui

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Design Principles

Located on the northern slope of a volcano, at roughly 1,500 feet above sea level, this Montessori school, already committed to sustainability, dreamed of an expanded campus environment that reflects the school’s educational mission and ecological values. The site and building design had to actualize the principles and practices of the school’s Earth Education program and the Montessori philosophy of education, which always incorporates outdoor education.

The program goal was to use the adjacent, newly acquired four acres and create a new Middle School classroom, three Upper School classrooms and a multi-purpose building with art and music classrooms and gathering/performance space for the entire school population of up to 270 students.

Since the entire campus serves as a “learning classroom,” spaces were developed to blur the distinction between indoors and outdoors. Each of the five new buildings has a broad and deep lanai, (porch), that facilitates and promotes free and easy movement from indoor to outdoor learning environments. Even when closed, a series of very tall, pocketed, sliding glass doors allow a visual connection to the outside expanses.

To meet both the school’s own Guidelines of Sustainability, it was extremely important to use as little of the new land as possible. Roughly half of the four acres is slated for development, while the remainder, set aside as open space for exploration, biodiversity, and earth education, will greatly enhance the school’s outdoor curriculum potential.

In order to reduce energy consumption, all buildings are naturally ventilated and employ day lighting strategies. Windows are simple, easily accessible and double hung. A prominent feature at the upper portion of two sides of each single-story building, is a custom, combination ventilating shutter and light shelf which helps cool the building, while permitting more daylight into the spaces. Also, very deep roof overhangs on the east and west elevations are incorporated to keep the region’s intense sun out and avoid excessive heat gain. To further boost the project’s energy goals, a 12 KW photovoltaic array is situated on the roof of the multi-purpose building.

To conserve water, all new buildings are designed with a series of rain leaders and underground pipes that harvest the region’s 60 inches of annual rainfall from the large roofs to a central storage water tank for irrigating the students’ extensive vegetable gardens and new athletic field. The harvested rainwater also serves as the source of a man-made stream that teachers use to demonstrate to students the principles of hydrology and physics and the philosophy that what happens in the upstream ecosystem affects the middle and downstream systems as well.

Most importantly, all sustainable efforts are tied to the curriculum. Students and faculty will be able to monitor via computer interface a building’s electric energy usage, the energy produced by the photovoltaic array and the amount of rainwater collected. This living campus is truly geared to inspiring children to become good students and to be good stewards of the earth.

The School's Guidelines of Sustainability

“To go out of the classroom in order to enter the outside world which includes everything is obviously to open an immense door to instruction.”
- Maria Montessori

The purpose of the Sustainability Design and Operational Guidelines is to provide a guiding template for architects and engineers as they work to manifest the principles of The School’s Earth Education Program in our campus expansion. Similarly, we’ve developed the Integrated Curriculum as an extension of our Earth Education Program and with the purpose of integrating lessons on sustainability for students aged three to fifteen years with real, on-campus sustainable development.

Inherent in the Montessori approach to education is the ‘prepared environment’ as an essential tool to promote the auto-education of the student. Also inherent within the Montessori philosophy is the idea that children should develop a ‘global vision’ and an understanding that all things are connected and interrelated.

Because of these tenets, we believe that our sustainability guidelines and integrated curriculum should direct new campus construction in such a way that students and teachers can utilize the facilities and grounds as learning tools within an expanded prepared environment. The campus and the buildings must provide and maximize opportunities for students to fall in love with the natural world, learn about Earth’s natural cycles, and gain an understanding of humanity’s relationship with Earth’s systems and species.

Maria Montessori defined the goal of education as ‘the development of a complete human being, oriented to the environment, and adapted to his or her time, place, and culture.’ Our hope is that this curriculum, integrated with our Sustainability Design and Operational Guidelines, is used by educators both within and outside our school community. We envision its core components to be creatively utilized by students and their mentors in any educational setting — including The School after our campus expansion is complete.

Indeed, we feel that sustainability is a salient topic today for people everywhere, and that it is a topic that will be vitally important for decades to come. The concept of sustainability has been around for a long time, and became more widely discussed in the 1980s. The word sustainable suddenly began to appear everywhere and its meaning seemed to be rather slippery and ever-changing. Gradually, people came to agree that for an action or product to be truly sustainable, it needed to be environmentally sound, socially responsible, and economically viable. In 1987, after thousands of interviews with people worldwide, the World Commission on the Environment and Development broadly defined sustainability as ‘development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.’ Our goal is that this curriculum may assist generations of young people to learn about, contemplate, assess, question, further define, and live sustainability — one of the most important topics of this era.

Merit Award 2006


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