The new award-winning 900-student K-8 Rio del Sol campus in Oxnard, California provides an unprecedented educational experience for a largely underserved and migrant population. The first K-8 campus for the District, the first STEAM School for the County, and a one-of-a-kind educational facility funded through public support and bonds. The project features 78,000 square feet of new construction including classrooms with STEAM Centers, Library, Administration and Multi-purpose facilities and the design of the school forms around the central, unifyling courtyard. The concept is embodied in multiple learning spaces and STEAM centers, following a pathway of student developmental stages. Rio School District’s STEAM campus showcases the District’s commitment to hands-on learning with outdoor environments designed to function as classrooms, drawing on the nearby river and storm water management structures as sources of study inspiration.
A series of workshops with the District's Planning Committee were conducted – comprised of teachers, community members, and District staff – to confirm the school's educational philosophy, inform the building program, and envision the types of spaces desired in the new school. The new campus is sited adjacent to the Santa Clara River on ancient Chumash lands, the planning approach drew from site history by engaging a Chumash Elder early in the process. Chumash culture and values were explored in detail.
Embracing the presence of the nearby river, both the program and architecture respond to the District Superintendent’s question: "How can we help the river find its way for the next 100 years?" The design team developed the concept of the “River of Knowledge” – a meandering path that provides nodes of activity, fun, and learning to enhance the students' educational journey. Along the River of Knowledge, focused makerspaces for building, literature, fine arts, performance, science, and nature are provided to encourage hands-on/minds-on activities. Utilizing the principles of Chumash Cosmology, the design incorporates culture- and creativity-inspiring features, including multi-colored lockers that spell out words like "rhythm," "music," and "beat" in Morse code, global numbering systems stamped in concrete to teach ethno-mathematics, and a centrally located “story tree" that encourages students to share discoveries.
The River of Knowledge connects all buildings, fostering equal access to specialized educational tools and settings. The campus includes (32) K-8 classrooms, a welcome center, media center, multi-purpose space, and culinary center. It features student-centered, transdisciplinary, project-based learning environments, as well as spaces that encourage students to learn and develop soft skills. Classrooms are designed with writeable and magnetic surfaces, as well as integrated 'fidget-to-focus' agile furniture and AV equipment, to allow the space to evolve alongside the curriculum. Seamless indoor/outdoor relationships and shared spaces further facilitate immersive learning. Students may opt to craft outdoor science experiments, walk barefoot through the mud walk, observe how water drains to the bioswales, pick blueberries from the grove for use in culinary class, or view the river through binoculars on outdoor balconies.
Designed for ecological sustainability, environmental education/stewardship, and economy – meeting a number of high-performance building criteria. Thoughtful building orientation and translucent insulated panels help to minimize heat gain. Punched windows at the southern exposures provide deep window seating nooks, while simultaneously providing shading. Low VOC and reclaimed materials, bioswales, native drought-tolerant plantings, biomes, sustainable gardens, and a green wall further contribute to sustainability goals.