ELC and Co.Lab

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Early Learning Center

Avenues New York’s Early Learning Center is housed in a brand new, purpose-built facility located at 536 West 26th Street—just down the block from the main campus. Designed by Eleven of Eleven Architecture, this new facility provides three floors of self-contained space for our nursery, pre-kindergarten and kindergarten students.

For Avenues, the design process itself presented an opportunity for innovation. Taking the same interdisciplinary, collaborative approach that we encourage in our students, the design team engaged our ELC faculty—the project’s most important members—throughout the process, soliciting their views and incorporating their feedback. At multiple workshops, educators and architects worked together to identify ways in which a new facility could better serve our program. Their discussions were informed by field trips to peer institutions, researching innovative workspaces and attending a Harvard educational design conference. This process of inquiry and discovery culminated with the construction of a full-scale prototype ELC classroom, which was tested with groups of our students in order to identify areas for improvement.

For our faculty and leadership, this was an exciting chance to create a space that would not only meet the needs of young children, but also fulfill the requirements of Avenues’ unique curriculum, which emphasizes collaboration, interdisciplinary study and learning through play. The result is a best-in-class early childhood facility where our faculty can thrive in their mission to nurture and inspire our youngest learners.

For our designers, the selection of each material was a chance to further optimize the environment for early childhood education. Fixtures and furniture—from classroom sinks to cubbies—were selected with the specific ergonomics of 3- to 6-year-olds in mind. Ceiling tiles and wall panels offer improved classroom acoustics and minimized noise pollution, while natural carpets from renewable sources perform as air filters, reducing airborne dust and allergens. Honoring our mission statement pledge of awareness that our behavior “makes a difference in our ecosystem,” all materials were sourced from producers who prioritize sustainability and environmental accountability.

Spread across three floors—nursery on the second, pre-K on the third and kindergarten on the fourth—the new ELC features a range of spaces to accommodate various learning styles and lesson formats. A fully equipped teaching kitchen and a patio for growing plants provides ample opportunities for experiential learning, while a cozy library in the quiet section of the building is a haven for young readers. The classrooms in which students spend most of their time are paired and connected in order to support the immersion program, in which students move between English- and Chinese- or Spanish-speaking classrooms on alternating days.

CO.LAB

The Co.Lab at 536 West 26th Street provides state-of-the-art project labs for the exclusive use of Upper Division students. This purpose-built facility occupies an entire floor above the new Early Learning Center and is accessible via elevators from the lobby. Containing dedicated areas for the pursuit of STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math), the Co.Lab is a signature Avenues space where the principles of collaboration and innovation are brought to life.

Conceived as an environment to encourage ideation and experimentation, the Co.Lab supports the interdisciplinary and the project-based learning approach that is a cornerstone of the Avenues high school experience. The space will be available during and after class, both on a drop-in basis and for scheduled blocks of class time. A 12th grade student might execute her Mastery project there, alongside a group of 9th graders working on 3-D printing assignment with their teacher in the iLab and a team of social innovation fellows brainstorming for a new design challenge in a seminar room. While STEAM spaces predominate, the entire floor is designed to flexibly accommodate all Upper Division subject areas.

The design of the Co.Lab reflects our desire to provide Upper Division students with an environment that matches the seriousness and ambitiousness of their projects, where they will see themselves as real-world designers, makers and entrepreneurs. To this end, we took inspiration from the most innovative, architecturally progressive workspaces in the world. Industry-leading features include visual and physical connections between areas, niche areas for small group work, retractable walls and mobile storage units that allow for various spatial configurations.

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