High Plains PK-8 School earned the prestigious 2016 Peak Design Award for excellence in planning and design. The award, given by the Association 4 Learning Environments (A4LE) Rocky Mountain Chapter, is given to a project that excelled in four key areas: planning process, community input, learning environment, and physical environment.

High Plains, which opened last fall in Loveland, Colorado, is a vibrant PK-8 school that accommodates 600 students and emphasizes Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Match (STEAM) as the foundation of its curriculum. High Plains is the first district-run school for preschool through eighth-grade classes, and the first sustainably designed facility in the Thompson School District.

High Plains integrates a strong approach to outdoor learning, which led to a new, cutting edge approach to the facility’s architectural design. The building takes advantage of majestic Front Range views and creates a constant connection to the outdoors.

The north wing houses administrative offices, Pre-K and Kindergarten suites, gymnasium, and cafeteria while the south wing is geared towards grades 1-8 learning. The south wing is divided into four study pods (two on the first floor and two on the second). Each pod has four traditional classrooms (grouped by grade), restrooms, small group space and a shared STEAM room.

The school physically embeds mathematical concepts within the design. The cafeteria floor pattern is in set dimensions of feet in one direction and meters in the other with different angles etched into classroom floors and both binary and morse code murals to label the elevator on different levels. Other learning elements integrated into the design include concrete animal prints of various native species, exposed and labeled pipes and cables to show building systems, and special lighting fixtures formed of a collage of the school’s mascot. All of these features encourage exploration, discovery, and wonder within the physical environment.

The school is tracking LEED Gold Certification.