A Living Building as Learning Center


On a recent visit to St. Louis, Ashley and I took a drive out of town to visit the new LaBarque campus and Jan Phillips Learning Center of The College School. This outdoor country campus has many habitats including a wetland, a prairie, two creeks, cliffs, woodland, and now, a beautiful learning center that is one of the 11 living buildings in the world. We were so impressed with the design and the vision for this extended campus of one of the most exciting schools we know. We met Tim Wood there, an old friend and colleague. Tim explained many features of the Learning Center. The building is dedicated to Jan Phillips who taught at the school and then was Head of School, serving the College School for 35 years.  The center is designed to extend the school philosophy of experiential education, connect people with nature, and advocate a sustainability ethic for the region.


The fire place in the building shows the strata of rock that goes down under the building for several thousand feet, ending with the foundation rocks of the house that used to be on this site. Local timber and many other local materials were used for construction.

Students designed the iron fence and will continue to add features to this campus over time.   A living building goes beyond the idea Leed certified. Every aspect of the building and the footprint is sustainable and actually creates energy rather than consuming it.  A Living Building needs a year of operation before officially becoming certified.


What a hopeful and beautiful legacy to leave a school as Jan Phillips has done. I learned from Jan to recognize sasafras and striped maple, to listen to the sounds of the forest and name them, to lead children into the woods knowing that much would be learned there for life.

Thank you to The College School, my "home school," where I taught for 16 years.  We are so proud to be a part of your family and to watch and admire all the good work that you do in the world for children, families, sustainability, and education. Your influence and example reach far and wide.