Developing Educational Success

Templeton Elementary School
Templeton, MA

The new Templeton Elementary School is a story of patience and perseverance. SMMA was retained in 2002 to conduct a master plan for three elementary schools in the Narragansett Regional School District, which is comprised of the Towns of East Templeton, Templeton, and Baldwinsville, MA. Early on, it was determined that the schools needed to be replaced by a new building to provide a next-generation model for education. The existing school sites — Templeton Center at 3.1 acres, Baldwinville at 3.2 acres, and East Templeton at 1.3 acres — were determined to be too small for the proposed building, which aimed to serve pre-kindergarten through fifth grade students.

An expectation was set that the rural community of Templeton, MA could accommodate such a school. Over a period of approximately five years, 18 raw land sites were explored. This determined two obstacles: that much of the available undeveloped land contained significant amounts of protected wetlands, and that the Town did not have the resources to purchase a private site for a new building. Thus, SMMA revisited the centrally located Templeton Center site and began planning to convert its two existing aged facilities into the current Templeton Elementary School.

Due to a 2010 Capital Study project with the MSBA, funding, code requirements, and site availability, construction did not actually begin until early 2018. The new and enhanced footprint brings the existing facilities from 23,000 and 12,500 square feet respectively to a total of 92,735 square feet, while juxtaposing the rigidity of the previous buildings with the flexibility and cohesiveness of a new 21st century school.



Maximizing a Confined Site

Though the new Templeton Elementary School is much larger than its predecessors, the overall scale of the site remains small. A large part of the strategy behind the new school ensures that every inch of the site is utilized and purposeful.

“Communities think that they need 12 or 15 acres to put a school in place,” says Joel Seeley, Project Manager. “But we’ve managed to get an amazing facility on just three acres.”

North and south roadways were re-organized to create one-way traffic circulation. This traffic design includes site lighting while establishing convenient, safe, and organized parking, bus drop-off, parent drop-off, and pick-up areas. Additionally, new utility services are connected to the building from the roadways. The compact nature of the site also enables the direct access of emergency vehicles to all parts of the school.

Outdoor Experiential Learning

Part of the site’s maximization incorporates hard surface and grass play areas, as well as a fenced-in play area to the south for pre-kindergarten students. Templeton’s playgrounds, however, are more than just playgrounds. The result of a collaborative process between SMMA, staff, and educators, they are outdoor experiential learning areas dedicated to the importance of play in an early education environment. Strong circulation patterns define the spaces along a spine, aiding students in the navigation of the natural world. Naturalistic elements and free play allow students to transform their environments with each visit to the space. Differentiated spaces were also developed for students of varied play and personality types. For example, a prominent and engaging climber at the entrance promotes large motor skills in a social multi-user space, while cove-like spaces such as a naturalistic, hollowed-out log support more introspective individual and dual play. These elements are seen as extensions of the interior learning environments, promoting both Social Emotional Learning (SEL) and Universal Design for Learning (UDL).

Templeton Elementary School Playground
Templeton Elementary School Interior Circulation

Bringing the Outdoors In

The interiors of the school reinforce Templeton’s strong connection to nature through its colors and materials:

  • The strategic implementation of glass in the corridors provides views into the classrooms and beyond, welcoming plenty of natural light and transparency into the floor plan.
  • Each level of the building is color-coded: earthy colors are used on the walls of the ground floor, greens are used on the second floor, and blues are used to represent the sky on the third floor.
  • Stair railings pay tribute to nature through delicate branch-like details on translucent balustrades.
Templeton Elementary School Classrooms

Enhancing Pedagogies

Templeton’s classrooms are arranged in a three-story wing: its design paved the way for future K-12 facilities by pioneering everything from varying hallway widths, to flexible folding glass partitions that create on-the-spot breakout rooms, to fun ergonomic benches. In fact, spontaneous learning conditions can be found throughout the building due to multi-configurable rooms and the use of 21st century technology. Lightweight ergonomic furniture enables faculty to move and re-arrange environments with ease, while alternative seating and sit-to-stand desks give students choice.


Each classroom is equipped with wireless laptops and large, interactive monitors, further supporting mobile learning opportunities. To assist learning from the earliest ages, the new Templeton Elementary School also houses integrated pre-kindergarten classrooms and an Occupational & Physical Therapy (OT/PT) program. The program works closely with younger students and those with special needs to teach skills such as hand dexterity and eye movement, better preparing them for life as a student.

  • Templeton Elementary School Corridor Classroom
  • Templeton Elementary Classroom
  • Templeton Elementary Art Room

A Center for Community

Due to its central location in the Town of Templeton, the elementary school was envisioned to support after-hour operations by the greater community. Because of this, the school’s major facilities are located right off the main entry for public use. This includes the gymnasium, which is accessible and adjacent to the building’s cafetorium space, allowing for expansion and interaction between the spaces. Music areas with moveable partitions are also accessible from behind the cafetorium stage and the surrounding classrooms. The library and corresponding media center/maker space are centrally located off the main connecting stairway at the second-floor level.

Templeton Elementary School Cafetorium

Sustainable and Educational

Templeton Elementary School is not only a model for its educational programming, but also for sustainability. Below are just some of the key features that the school incorporates:

  • About 25% of the total site area is vegetated outdoor space. Drought resistant plants and lawn areas allow for no or little irrigation use.
  • The school’s roof is covered with highly reflective white-color PVC membrane to reduce heat island effects.
  • The site features subsurface detention systems that infiltrate and detain rainwater runoff.
  • LED lights have been installed for both exterior and interior lighting, alongside occupancy sensors and daylighting sensors to ensure efficient energy usage.
  • The school has a predicted Energy Use Intensity (EUI) of 79, which is lower than the ASHRAE baseline. The number reflects Templeton’s usage of oil boiler heating due to the lack of natural gas in the area. The oil boiler heating was made to be converted into a completely electrical system in the future.
  • Templeton has initiated the Crayola ColorCycle program, locating several bins and ColorCycle stations throughout the school. The program “converts old markers into energy, as well as wax compounds for asphalt and roofing shingles.”


Evoking the Location

No matter which part of the new Templeton Elementary School visitors find themselves in, they will discover odes to its rural landscape and community members. From the outside, the design team carefully selected a palette of three materials to give the school a natural, central Massachusetts feel: wood-like phenolic resin clapboard panels embellish the classroom wing, while slate-like porcelain tile panels envelope the gymnasium, all sitting on a deep, textured, and rustic brick base.

Once inside, artwork made by Templeton’s students is immortalized in the walls of school: based on a color-scheme per grade, students decorated and glazed their own handprints which were then converted into wall tiles for the main entrance. In another celebration of community, historic images of the town were used to create large wall murals. These visual displays in the stairwells and hallways celebrate the town’s legacy and create educational opportunities at every turn.

Templeton Elementary School Facade


Templeton Elementary School Corridor artwork