Hawthorn School Science Courtyard


The Science Courtyard project started as a request to simply connect two doors separated by a newly created outdoor courtyard and add some landscaping. 3D Design Studio recommended an outdoor classroom and many ideas blossomed from there. The central feature of the courtyard is a circular classroom. Whereby a model of the solar system was used as the precedent for the core design idea. The classroom (38’ in diameter) represents the diameter of the sun and the adjacent planets are constructed in scale with it. A local artist used Hubble Telescope Photos to accurately paint each planet.

Within the circular paver plaza, a flagpole casts a shadow, allowing us to create a sundial. In the center, a decorative compass rosette points to north, south, east and west. The primary walk connecting the two doors became a timeline. The distance between the doors required 334 – 6” bricks. If each brick represented 15 million years, a timeline of the current estimated age of Earth ~ 5 Billion Years, was in place! The rise of single cell organisms occurs about half way through and the timeline ends with the entire existence of mankind, a mere ¾” wide strip!

The paved walkways surrounding the outdoor classroom encompass the Illinois State Trail, which features all the state symbols- bird, fish, tree, mineral, native plants, even the state fossil. The state trail helps children identify all these features with accurate representation either through high resolution photographs or the actual state symbol.