To design the ideal Educare School for the Winnebago Tribe community, RDG's Early Education team immersed themselves with the Ho-Chunk people. Discovery through culture, history books, museums, and most importantly, communication with the community and its elders helped develop a design concept that is sensitive and reflective of the tribe and its history.
Through this exploration, two influential design themes emerged: path and earth. Path signifies the Winnebago Tribe's split from the other Siouan Tribes and the beginning of a new journey as a single tribe. Earth represents respect for and dependence upon the Earth, as it became vital to the existence of the Ho-Chunk people. The themes of earth and path evolved into concepts specific to the Educare Winnebago project: "Earth/Path" and "Nurture through Nature." Through the importance of earth and path, nature became an element by which the school was defined and a program delineated.
A physical pathway through the site and school is defined by nature and framed through the building architecture. Because child development and nurturing are the focus of both the early education program and its built environment, planning for Educare Winnebago included careful consideration of the design approach and the school's placement with regard to purposeful engagement with the Earth. Surrounded by a sculpted earthwork, the pathway trails through the site to a compressed entry, leading visitors into a welcoming and naturally-illuminated atrium of the school. The atrium becomes the communal hearth, adorned with cultural artwork representing the Ho-Chunk Tribe and culture.
Providing education to nearly 200 children ages 6 months to 5 years, Educare Winnebago is now a destination where the community can gather in learning and share more about their culture.