Thaden School, an independent 6-12 school in Bentonville, was recently awarded the 2022 James D. MacConnell Award at an event in San Antonio, Texas, triumphing over a field of more than 75 other contenders.
The award is given by the Association for Learning Environments, a professional organization focused on improving the places where children learn, and the award is to recognize just that: a school, architecture firm or other such organization that has excelled in designing a space for learning.
Philip Riedel, principal at NAC Architecture and jury chair commented, “With over 75 projects submitted in the awards program, the MacConnell projects are exceptional examples of comprehensive planning resulting in schools that support teaching and learning, and serve the multiple needs of the students, staff and the community. All that entered are to be commended for improving the places children learn.”
Though the Thaden School is as small as it is new, having been established just in 2017 and with a student population of around 500, its well-constructed design wowed the jury. According to Thaden, its founding vision sought to challenge traditional paradigms of education and create a campus where students have the best opportunities to learn from their surroundings and interact with their community.
“Learning by doing” and “learning by moving” are major aspects of Thaden’s guiding philosophy, and so they are reflected in the landscape through academic programs that are dispersed across the campus, each with their own lab or makerspace, so that students learn to integrate the movements of their minds and hands.
The jury noted, “This school celebrates the ability to respond to differences. Ownership and stewardship are strong here. This is symbolic of the idea of an ‘anti-school’ where students’ receive a distinct message about the agency and respect afforded to their individual learning. It promotes freedom of creativity through its spirited design.” As another juror remarked, “The planning and design of Thaden is pure poetry!”
Photo Credit: NWA Council