Joe Shoemaker Expeditionary School

A visionary school connected to its natural setting and the learning opportunities it presents.

80,000 SF


Denver, CO

Denver Public Schools

The Joe Shoemaker Expeditionary School is a state-of-the-art ECE-5 school that embodies 21st Century Learning Principles while leveraging its site to promote learning through real world experiences. Named for a Colorado Senator that advocated for preserving the city’s waterways, the school embraces its natural setting and proximity to a primary urban waterway. The school is designed with courtyards between neighborhoods connected to a learning landscape along the creek, where students are encouraged to investigate natural wildlife, lifecycle processes, and remnant ecology.

The design of the school reflects 21st Century Learning Principles by reinforcing community and collaboration within environments that foster critical thinking and curiosity. Clusters of classrooms are organized as discrete neighborhoods that create spheres of ownership in support of community-building. Living rooms and outdoor courtyards support break-out instruction and project-based learning. A gymnasium doubles as an agora for gathering and a recreation amenity for the surrounding neighborhood. A library doubles as a civic, community space, providing the school with flexibility in programming and engagement opportunities.

The project connects students to a rare, authentic setting. Learning is reinforced by doing and experiencing in hands-on, nature-inspired program spaces. A community garden adjacent to the cafeteria supports a “garden to kitchen” program. A stormwater infrastructure landscape that includes an outfall structure and pond, configured as an amphitheater, becomes reclaimed program space. The use of an inventive structural strategy that evokes an abstract forest for the Early Child Education wing transforms the ordinary into something that provokes wonder.

The new school sets out to embrace its proximity to a primary city waterway while creating a state-of-the-art school embracing the District’s newly adopted 21st Century Learning Principles.

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