McBride Elementary School is a Pre-K through 5th-grade school on the Fort Benning, Ga., military installation. The school is one of the Department of Defense Education Activity’s first 21st Century schools.

Based on the DoDEA 21st-Century Education Facilities Specifications, the 21st-Century School is the result of an extensive research and planning process to the new definition of how education will be delivered and the impact on school design. Parkhill was one of five firms nationally to participate as thought leaders, along with educators, in the development of the 21st Century Education Specifications. Key elements of 21st Century schools are collaborative learning, collaborative teaching/planning, high visibility of technology and art programs, sustainability, connections to the outdoors, and using the school building as a teaching tool.

McBride Elementary includes a total of seven Learning Neighborhoods — each with four Learning Studios. The classroom is no longer also the teacher’s office. Collaboration among educators is as critical to 21st-century teaching as is student collaboration. Additionally, a Group/Virtual Learning Room is included in each Neighborhood so that students can communicate with their peers at other schools and around the globe. One-to-one space provides opportunities for individual engagement to learners who may need tutoring or counseling.

Sustainable design is also integrated into the school, which earned the project LEED Silver Status from the U.S. Green Building Council Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program. The requirement for 40% energy reduction over the baseline consumption of similar facilities provides DoDEA a high-performing, efficient facility.

The opportunity to teach the concepts of sustainability and stewardship of the Earth’s resources is also an important element to the 21st Century philosophy as teaching tools. These include photovoltaic solar arrays, geometric wall shapes that concentrate voice signals, sundials, bioswales, rainwater harvesting, and signage along the campus identifying the site’s native vegetation. As a cultural teaching tool, a large tile mosaic wall portrait of Corporal Morris McBride is located on the interior of the Commons to highlight the heroic efforts of this school’s namesake.