Reeds Spring Middle School recognized with national award for innovative architecture
The town of Reeds Spring has a reason to feel proud these days as their two year-old middle school has been honored with a national award by the American Institute of Architects for having the best interior architecture in the country.
And a financial news website named "Business Insider" called it one of the three most-beautiful schools in the world.
Designed by Dake Wells Architecture out of Springfield, the Reeds Spring Middle School certainly doesn't look like any traditional box school. It's actually three stories tall, but you can't tell from ground-level because it's built into the side of a hill.
"We feel like we're an innovative school," said principal Travis Kite.
It certainly is that. The jury that gave out the national award praised the way the school was blended into the Ozarks landscape.
Inside you're greeted by a large atrium with plenty of natural light bordered by a textured brick wall on one side and vertical wood slats on the other side that recall the trees sorrounding the school.
And parallel to the stairs are tiered seats that run down to the commons area.
"Students use them to sit and socialize before school," Kite explained. "Between classes it's kind of a gathering spot."
On the other side of the wooden beams are classrooms and lockers, although the lockers aren't used much since every student here is assigned their own laptop.
And the classes are designed with movable glass walls so the students can spread out to work on different projects.
"The walls open up allowing students to come out, use the collaboration space. Small groups can come out and use it," Kite explained.
There are several of those so-called collaboration spaces throughout the school. Some with TV's, others with projection screens that come out of the ceiling. And there are outdoor classrooms as well.
The bottom floor where the kitchen and commons area is located is all underground. There you'll also find an 1,000-seat auditorium that any Branson music show would be proud to call home. And this along with the adjacent gym also serve as a safe room tornado shelter for the entire district. It's all located under this hill with that glass enclosure serving as an emergency entry. And the 480-foot-long retaining wall helps secure those safe rooms.
As you can tell, this school looks nothing like the high school next door or the old middle school either. And when the students traded this for this....
"My first reaction was WOW!" recalled student Jordan Shortt. "I actually couldn't say anything for the longest time. I was just so impressed with what this building was like."
"It's definitely when you're learning," added fellow student Austin Herzan. "It's just a lot easier to learn here."
Everywhere you look there's innovation. From the open ceiling with triangular panels that provide the best acoustics for the band room to a curriculum that includes a course in forensics.
"Probably the favorite class I've ever taken," Shortt said. "We got to lots of fun experiments like electro fibrosis which is DNA fingerprinting. We got to match the suspects and the victims DNA and see if it was suicide or a homicide."
That certainly wasn't a 7th grade course back in my day. But the times are a changin', just like the schools.
"We've had people come in and be in awe of a middle school that looks this way," Kite said. "And they did a great job of designing it and our community has supported it. And they have something they can be proud of."