Two brand-new preschool classrooms, a science and media lab, an outdoor amphitheater and a multi-purpose building with a gymnasium and stage make up the newest addition to Bowman School's Palo Alto campus on Arastradero Road.
The new 3-acre site, dubbed the Learning Village, cost about $20 million and has taken slightly more than a year to complete. It's located 300 feet from the main campus at 4000 Terman Drive.
Since 1995, Bowman School has served students from first through eighth grade. Now, with the addition of a new Children's House preschool facility, 3- and 4-year-olds can also attend the private Montessori school. Bowman enrolls 300 students across all grades.
Expanding the campus and establishing a preschool were "always part of the vision" for Bowman, Head of School Mary Beth Ricks said.
"When we started our school, we rented space from Cubberley (Community Center)," she said. "As we grew, we were looking for buildings all around and we bought this building, always knowing it was a great solution for the short term but that it wouldn't be able to fit all of our needs."
Before the expansion, art instructors brought their lessons and materials into other teachers' classrooms, science classes were held in a lab in the basement and woodshop took place outside. The enrichment courses now have their own designated spaces in the new Learning Village, where students can learn, create, build and conduct experiments.
The main campus, however, will remain the hub for students' core classes.
"Their everyday learning — math, language arts, handwriting, spelling — all of those things will happen in their classrooms (on the main campus)," Ricks said. "And then they'll walk over (to the Learning Village) with their class for an afternoon of routine through all of those enrichment activities."
Some enrichment activities, including the library and music and world languages classes, will still be held at the main campus.
In addition to a stage for school theater productions and assemblies, the new gymnasium includes two basketball courts, locker rooms on either side of the building and an office space for the athletic staff as well as a shower — an added amenity that aims to encourage faculty members to bike to work.
Having a gym on site means that the school will no longer have to pay for space elsewhere to host sporting events or other activities.
"Everything that's happening in the gym eliminates the need for renting space," Ricks said. "We have a band, we have music, we have a choir and we've rented space for them to perform. We also have an all-school dance and we rent a space for that to happen. So, all of our rental budget is done and we're looking forward to that."
Other features at the new site include a labyrinth for students and teachers to walk through, gardens and a public art installation created by Stanford University alumnus and international artist Kamau Patton in collaboration with Bowman students. Maria Montessori, who founded the Montessori education method, identified 10 human tendencies that influence people's understanding of the world. This ideology inspired the art project, which features words and symbols made of stainless steel embedded into the concrete inside and around the campus.
With guidance from Patton, students wrote poems and prose that reflect the Montessori educational philosophy. They were involved in the process every step of the way, including going to a metal fabricator in Oakland and helping with the final installment at the school.
"I'm an educator, I come from a family of educators, and I recognize the Montessori curriculum as an approach to education that has been influential and inspiring and has touched so many lives," Patton said. "The history of Maria Montessori and the obstacles she faced is inspirational. Artistically, this was an opportunity I approached with a certain amount of care."
The art project spans 25,000 square feet and includes more than 2,000 letters and symbols that can only be viewed in full by walking through the entire campus.
The school is hosting a public grand opening on Saturday, Sept. 7, from 2-5 p.m. for the Learning Village and art installation. Attendees will be able to tour the new site.
"We have really strong support from our neighbors, so we're inviting all of them; parents, alumni and everybody who worked on the project is welcome," Ricks said of the event.