May 2015

San Marcos USD hired ATI to expand San Marcos Elementary School by adding on four EmilyTM Classroom Buildings. The EmilyTM Classrooms provided the District with a fast solution to their overcrowding problem. The prototypical classrooms are 960 sf each, DSA Pre-Checked, and feature a metal roof and block veneer wainscot to tie the existing buildings on campus.

Check out the short clip below featuring this project.

Do you remember as a kid asking your teacher, “Can we have class outside today?!  Pleaaaaassseeee?!!”  It was so rewarding to be outside breathing in fresh air while learning the Capitals of the 50 States.  In California where the weather is nice 99.9% of the time, I wonder why there aren’t more outdoor classrooms.

There are so many benefits of using the outdoors as your classroom. I recently read an article that reports a study done by the U.K.’s King’s College London that proposes teaching outdoors makes educators more confident and enthusiastic about their work, and more innovative in their teaching strategies[1]. Other studies have showed that time outdoors helps students succeed in school by improving their memory, problem solving, and creativity.[2] Being outside reinvigorates both students and teachers.

So, why am I blogging about learning in the outside environment?  Well, if you recall from previous blogs ATI won a design competition for the San Juan Unified School District’s Winston Churchill Middle School Project.  This is a 21st Century Learning School and, in addition to creating indoor flexible learning environments, our design for this campus expansion includes outdoor learning.  Our creative Architects focused on bringing the inside learning environment to the outdoors.

There are concrete seats at the existing site and more will be added to provide additional outdoor learning spaces.  The new Classroom Buildings will be jogged with alcoves, offering space for teachers to take students outside.  Not only will this re-energize students and teachers, it also offers more space, flexibility, and small group learning.

Taking the Inside Out classroom approach will be the next development in California Schools.  Your students and teachers deserve the best learning environments which nature can provide.  As your School District grows and the need for more flexible learning environments evolves, consider the outdoor learning environment as a solution.  It will enhance academic achievement when combined with the holistic elements of the evolving 21st Century Learning environment.

aerial north view
David Suzuki, Co-Founder of the David Suzuki Foundation, is an award-winning scientist, environmentalist and broadcaster. He is renowned for his radio and television programs that explain the complexities of the natural sciences in a compelling, easily understood way. For more information on the David Suzuki Foundation, visit