Buckingham County Primary & Elementary Schools has received an inaugural Excellence Award from the Center for Active Design! Buckingham was the only school commended for its active, health-promoting design.

Juror Comments:
“The Buckingham County Elementary School is inspiring – their incorporation of active design guidelines and healthy food access has made this school a beautiful, healthy and fun place to learn,” said Christine Johnson.

The Buckingham County Elementary School, designed by VMDO Architects, P.C., re-defines education for its 960 elementary students, serving the residents of Dillwyn, Virginia. This existing rural community, sustained by the timber and industrial farming industries, offers little access to fresh, healthy foods or parks and paths for play and activity. The project team, consisting of public health professionals, researchers, and architectural and landscape designers, sought to develop an elementary school with transformative health goals. In the short term, they aimed to provide increased access to healthy foods and hands-on nutrition education, as well as create places for physical activity. In the long term, they hope to shape the way today’s youth think about physical activity and healthy eating choices as they age. Post-occupancy evaluations and data collection to measure success were part of the team’s initial plans.

The School’s greatest Active Design innovations come from the team’s approach to Healthy Food Access. Inside the school, a teaching kitchen and food lab lounge instruct children on good nutrition and healthy meals in a fun and interactive environment. The kitchen garden offers a variety of raised bed heights for users of varying abilities and heights. A grab-n-go garden adjacent to the play areas facilitates healthy snacking right off the plant. While working on the project, the team developed Healthy Eating Design Guidelines for School Architecture, published by the Center for Disease Control.

The project uses Active Design strategies reflected in the Active Buildings, Active Recreation, and Healthy Food Access approaches. The naturally lit, monumental lobby stair connects two shared common spaces and functions as a social hub. Ergonomic seating designed for micro-movement allows children to fidget, lean, and sway as they participate in hands-on learning activities, and additional furniture options encourage active postures. Circulation patterns, integrated way-finding graphics, and visual access to the commercial kitchen in the cafeteria connects children with food preparation and service. Outside, 15 acres are designed for intergenerational use, with fitness and movement opportunities co-located alongside learning spaces, including a sustainable garden for public and school use.

Click here for more information about the project’s receipt of an inaugural Excellence Award from the Center for Active Design!

Excerpted from Center for Active Design