Marin Country Day School

Corte Madera, CA

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Providing Students Opportunity to Interact with Habitat

Historically, the site’s meandering streams and tidal marsh drained Ring Mountain’s watershed into the San Francisco Bay. Protecting and restoring this ecosystem while providing opportunities for students to interact with the environment and each other are central to the school’s pedagogy. Restoring the stream led to the relocation of Step Up, a beloved amphitheater, into the heart of the campus fabric and landscape setting. This social nexus is as intimate for a small group of students as it is for a class graduation that draws hundreds and is deeply meaningful to the school’s culture. Redwood from the historic amphitheater was reused for furnishings throughout the campus, fostering a connection between the school’s history and its current and future generations of students.

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Throughout the campus, sustainable strategies are made visible to inspire students to think critically and propose solutions to environmental opportunities that we face. A perennial stream, once lined with concrete, was redesigned to reduce erosion, contain flood events, and restore hydrologic processes. The creek corridor now includes diverse riparian habitats with native planting, much of it planted by the students. Upper School rain runoff is filtered through a planted bioswales prior to entering the restored creek. In some instances, the bioswales are spanned by bench-bridges for gathering opportunities embedded within the natural systems. Image Credit: Michael Rose
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The project includes opportunities for native habitat restoration, educational hydrological relationships, academic ritual, as well as an extensive variety of social spaces. Working with a biologist, existing seasonal streams, native grasslands, and forest were surveyed and integrated into the master plan. CMG collaborated with EHDD on building massing and the structure of campus open space, circulation, and ecosystem integration. The project is one of the first LEED Platinum–certified schools in the United States.