John C. Clements, AIA, and Shelly Pottorf, AIA, LEED AP of Jackson & Ryan Architects, have translated our mission and therapeutic practices into a physical space that supports the optimal development of students and clients. The metaphor of the monarch butterfly exemplifies our dedication to changing lives from the inside out.
The Chrysalis Building
Our campus features an environment that works seamlessly with and empowers the process of transformation. The Chrysalis Building, designed for Day School students at the Novice and Apprentice levels, has 12 classrooms organized in four wings. Students enter their wing of the school through a central courtyard, creating a sense of protection, safety and well-being. From there, they continue into a common living space around which three classrooms, a therapy room, a sensory area, a computer room, a “quiet” room and observation rooms are arranged. Classrooms are spacious and self-contained to properly modulate sensory input. A direct link allows movement from inside space to outside decks, small gardens, outdoor classrooms and planned pavilions for art, woodworking, dance, drama and animal care in the village area.
As Apprentice students’ skill sets increase, they will access learning in a more complex environment. In keeping with the Novice and Apprentice levels of development, the Chrysalis Building looks inward, reflecting the work of individual “I” centered growth.
Aware that new buildings can be highly toxic, we wanted to build a school that was healthy for our students, clients and faculty. So we pursued and achieved LEED® certification at the Gold Level—an award unsurpassed by any other school in Texas or any other special needs school in the United States. We are proud to say that we are indeed the healthiest, most sustainable school in Texas.
How did Monarch qualify for LEED gold certification? The Monarch Chrysalis building was designed and built using strategies aimed at achieving high performance in key areas of human and environmental health: sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection and indoor environmental quality.
Visit the Monarch Institute site here to listen to an episode of our radio show, Monarch Minutes, which focuses on Monarch receiving LEED gold certification.
The Butterfly Building
One of the two buildings yet to be completed in our capital campaign plan, the Butterfly Building is designed to house our Challenger and Voyager levels and look outward—focusing on community-centered, “we” skills. Students and visitors will enter a shared, central gathering space and pass through the educational opportunities offered in one of the two outstretched wings, before going back out into the world through the wing tips. There are areas designed to support elementary, middle and high school-aged Challengers and Voyagers. Classrooms are open and free-flowing, affording students multiple opportunities to practice the skills they need to function successfully in the world. Outdoor amenities will include patios, gardens and a basketball court.
The Monarch Center
Nestled between the Chrysalis and Butterfly Buildings to welcome visitors and serve as our headquarters, the Monarch Center will house administrative offices and the Diagnostic Clinic. Outstretched wings of this building will house the Life Academy and the Training Center—both within easy access to all levels of the program, as well as therapy services.
The three buildings form the edge of a large, protected, environmentally rich outdoor classroom. Here, a walking trail surrounds a large garden with a pond, a fireplace and a small shop for garden equipment. The trail was constructed in April, and physical fitness equipment was also installed. The new outdoor environment includes a granite walking trail, multiple fitness stations that line up along the trail and a courtyard garden with native plants and picnic tables. The outdoor fitness area provides our students with daily opportunities to practice our Four Core Goals: self-regulation and self-awareness, executive functions, relationship development and academic competence.
Five free-standing studios will form an artist colony on our campus. These spaces will provide a unique resource to practice our Four Core Goals, amplify our capacity to engage students and clients therapeutically, and house the following unique and crucial components of our program:
Over the years, we have learned time and again that experience in the visual arts accesses strengths and talents among children with neurological differences. Providing them with therapeutically important experiences in sensory integration and tactile and physical organization, the process of creative invitation also promotes the development of emotional regulation, personal self-confidence and self-awareness, and celebration of beauty and excellence.
Life Academy storefront
Our Life Academy provides a unique set of student-operated, revenue-generating, entrepreneurial experiences for students, who operate more than a dozen enterprises as a core part of their daily curriculum. By producing, managing and selling their products, students and teachers get important, real-life practice in finance and corporate construction, distribution and sales. When we fuse these experiences with the real-life production of goods, our students gain a unique opportunity to build resumes and transcripts.
Woodworking and construction studio
Ownership and empowerment means being able to say things like, “I made that” and “Our skills and labor made that possible.” Giving our students the opportunity to design and construct their own projects with wood, fabric, string and metal enables them to practice the coordination of thought and action, develop physical competence, deepen knowledge of the physical world and improve their ability to focus.
Dance, music and drama studio
Self-coordination through movement requires a simple, open space. Intentional motor planning practice, upon which much of dance and movement therapy is predicated, elicits a neurophysiologic response that enhances cognitive development and sensory and motor planning skills. Research suggests that children with autism and other neurological differences benefit significantly from symbolic pretend-play. Drama offers opportunities for spontaneous and novel interaction with others—enhancing relationship development, one of our Four Core Goals.
The environmental arts include gardening, small animal care, community gardens, propagation of orchards and food-growing enterprises. This studio houses our intentions and efforts to act in coordination with and in care of our resources.
It’s easy to see how we’re able to drive transformational change in our students, especially when our very environment contributes at every point to our mission.
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