Early Childhood Education

Emma Eccles Jones Early Childhood Education & Research Center, Utah State University

This 65,000 square foot, $13 million facility for the College of Education and Human Services includes the Center for Early Care and Education as well as a deaf education facility for children up to pre-school age. Each early education classroom is outfitted with observation spaces for university pedagogical instruction and parent education. The building provides offices, classrooms, a facility for researchers for the National Center for Hearing Assessment and Management, a Literacy Learning Laboratory, and a Child Language and Disorders Clinic.

The form of this building was derived from the different scales of the two user groups, children and adults. These two groups inspire each other, educate each other, and most importantly grow from one another. We see the structural and formal link between the adult and child scales of spaces as analogous to an escarpment: a steep slope or long cliff that results from the earth’s forces creating a transition between two areas of differing elevations.

Each classroom has direct access to south daylight and to the outdoor playground which resembles a nature hike. The indoor feature that links the classrooms, called the “Children’s Street”, is a fun compilation of ins and outs, ups and downs, and lights and darks for children to experience surprises around every corner.

The incredible part of the design process was taking the perspective of children ages 6 months to 6 years and creating miniature design projects within each nook and cranny of the building. Our task was to stimulate imagination, motor skills, and overall development of the children through the careful use of light, color, materials, form, and acoustics. A separate and adjacent layer was inserted to allow researchers to document and observe the early childhood education process while remaining unseen by the children.

The corridors became metaphorical streams full of eddies, boulders, caves, and arches. The ceilings and clerestories are a cloud-filled sky, and the playground is a nature hike featuring several hundred feet of tricycle paths. The classrooms and research spaces are packed with highly detailed casework, observation spaces, sound booths, and specialized child sized kitchens, bathrooms, and changing rooms.

The building meets the Utah State High Performance Building Standard, which is considered to be LEED Silver equivalent. The energy efficient aspects of this building include: active solar strategies (positive aspect ratio, shading devices, light shelves, and daylight harvesting), high-efficiency HVAC systems, high R-Value envelope design, vented cavity walls, and a green roof.