Explorer Elementary opened in August 1989 under the expertise direction of Bill Legg as principal. The beginning enrollment was 310 students. By the year 1991, there were over 680. Prairie Hills opened the following year, easing Explorer's load. The current enrollment has stabilized at 450. It serves preschool thru fifth grade and full day kindergarten. Explorer takes great pride in being a neighborhood school.
The philosophy at Explorer was conceived out of the notion that "all roads lead to learning." The district wished for a facility which would cultivate curiosity and stimulate student creativity and critical thinking skills. The physical environment had to be variable and interesting, an environment which would foster exploration and movement. The facility would accommodate the "school family" of child, family, staff and community.
To meet these goals, the educational program called for grade level groupings of classrooms conceived as "neighborhoods." Each neighborhood has its own project room where activities from team teaching to individual studies take place. These project rooms are "community centers." The neighborhoods in turn are tied to the whole movement to and from shared central spaces such as the Media Center.
A sense of accomplishment is fostered among children as they progress through the grade level neighborhoods and venture out into the school community. The front of the building, with its arched opening, provides a playful entrance into the kindergarten area. A bell tower at the main entry creates a strong historical tie to the traditional school building.
The spaces that link the neighborhoods were conceived as "pleasant streets between tasks" and have become more than hallways. To the children that use them, they are known as Broadway and Main Street. The spaces fronting these "streets" are brightly colored storefronts, and a town clock stands prominently on Broadway. Skylights along Broadway and clerestory windows over Main Street flood these main circulation spaces with light.
During Explorer's first year, the PTO started a spirit run as a fundraiser. The students would run laps around the field and collect money for every lap. The weather turned cold and rainy. Instead of canceling, Bill said, "bring it inside!" And ever since, the Hawk Hall Rush has been one of the PTO's biggest moneymakers. The kids think it is so cool to be able to run the halls once a year.
As Bill Legg retired, Carol Baker took over as principal. Under her leadership, Explorer continued to thrive. The staff at Explorer decided to go to an "uninterrupted schedule," where the classroom teachers would have their students most of the day, providing blocks of time for language arts and math. Specialized teachers arranged their schedule around this idea. Because of the schedule, Spanish and a second Science teacher were added. In addition, the students receive Physical Education, Music and Art.
In the fall of 2006, Maureen Lang became principal, following Carol's retirement. In Maureen's first year, she began a positive behavior program. The students at Explorer SOAR to be Safe, On-task, Achieve, and Respectful. Students are nominated to be a Hawk Hero monthly, when the student demonstrates these school-wide academic and behavior expectations. Along with our character education program, the students at Explorer SOAR to a high level of excellence in all areas of their lives.
Explorer housed a full computer lab at its opening. In 2001, Intel gave a grant of over $40,000 that provided a wireless computer lab. Explorer now has two classroom mobile computer labs along with the computer lab and computers in the library. Classrooms are being updated with ceiling mounted projectors, speakers and document cameras. The PTA continues to provide funds to support upgrading technology at Explorer. Therefore, students at Explorer are able to utilize technology and information literacy skills in all areas of their learning.
The parent community at Explorer is very involved and is generous in meeting the needs of the school. Throughout the years, they have provided curtains and the sound system for the stage area, a climbing wall for the gym, playground equipment, instruments for the music program, materials for art, and recently helped fund a new surface for the playground. They provide funding for the drug education program for the fifth grade.
Many programs are offered to the students as enrichment classes. There is an intermediate instrument ensemble class for grades 3-5 offered twice a year where students play xylophones. The primary level is offered a hand drum class. Intramural sports continue to be popular throughout the school year. Art classes are offered for primary and intermediate students. Two other enrichment offerings are Battle of the Books and Chess Club.
In 2006, our TAG program started the HAWK TV network. Selected students video taped many of the events at Explorer and produced their own news show, giving them leadership roles in all areas of production. Students can also be involved with Word Masters and the Continental Math League. The student council continues to be very involved in community service projects. Our SSN students collect socks for the homeless.
In 2007, the students and staff raised money for The Compass School in Kenya. Their fundraising included a school-wide volleyball game between students and staff. Third grade created their own businesses and sold products. The students worked at home and in their neighborhoods. The goal was to raise $2,000. Explorer sent The Compass School $3,400.
Explorer has a tradition of excellence. Since the implementation of CSAP testing, Explorer has ranked near the top. During the 2005-2006 school year, our school became a John Irwin School of Excellence, which ranks Explorer in the top 8% of schools in the state based on overall academic performance.. Explorer has continued to be a top ranking school in the state as a John Irwin School of Excellence in the school years' of 2006-07 and 2007-08. Every year in the Colorado Springs Gazette Newspaper's Best and Brightest, there is one or more graduating seniors that started their education at Explorer. In 2007, three of the twenty-five were former students, and one of these students was named a Boettcher Scholar. We at Explorer believe that the foundation we give our students helps them to become the best and the brightest.
The following information was written by Mr. William Legg, Explorer's first Principal, and the design team.
It was the concept design of Explorer Elementary School. The school was completed on May 11, 1989.
Architect for the School - The LKA Partners, Inc.
Contractor for the School - Hughes/Smith, Inc.
Capacity - 525 Students
Grades Served - Preschool thru Fifth
Gross Square Footage - 47,496 sq. ft.
Contract Awarded - June 9, 1988
Substantial Completion - June 2, 1989
Construction Cost - $2,341,674
District education wished for a new facility which would cultivate curiosity and stimulation. The physical environment had to be variable and interesting, an environment which would foster exploration and movement. A facility capable of accommodating the "school family" of child, teacher, and community, at the very best dollar value possible.
To meet these goals, the educational program called for grade level groupings of classrooms conceived as "neighborhoods". Each neighborhood could have its own project rooms where activities running from team teaching to individual studies could take place. These project rooms would be sort of "community centers". The neighborhoods would in turn be tied to the whole by movement to and from shared central spaces such as the Media Center.
A sense of accomplishment is fostered among the children as they progress through the grade level neighborhoods and venture out more into the school community.
Massing and building orientation are very sensitive to the surrounding residential neighborhood. The free standing wall with an arched opening provides a playful entry into the kindergarten area. A bell tower at the main entry makes a strong historical tie to the traditional school building.
A compact efficient building shape developed as a response to the groupings of the classroom pod neighborhoods. Each neighborhood consists of two classroom pods. Each pod is composed of three classrooms, one project room, and one storage room. Toilet facilities are self-contained within each neighborhood.
All of the building neighborhoods are linked together by two major and two minor circulation spaces. These spaces were conceived as "pleasant streets between tasks" and have become more than just hallways. To the children who use them they are known as Broadway and Main Street. These spaces fronting these "streets" are brightly colored storefronts, and a town clock stands prominently on Broadway.
||Teaching flexibility in each pod is enhanced by interior doors between classrooms. Direct physical and visual access to project rooms allow classes to be broken into smaller groups without sacrificing teacher supervision. The Gymnasium and Multi-Use area serve multiple functions as gymnasium, auditorium and classroom. A large operable wall between these two spaces can be closed to allow the Multi-Use area to function as an extra classroom. Acoustical separation is sufficient to allow other activities to occur simultaneously in the gymnasium.|
| The relationship between the main parking area, front lobby with its adjacent public toilet facilities and the Multi-Use/Gymnasium areas, facilitate the use of these spaces by the community during the off hours. Portions of the building not directly related to community use can be effectively closed off for control purposes.|
Natural lighting dispels the notion of dark corridors. Skylights along Broadway and clerestory windows over Main Street flood these main circulation spaces with light. The Media Center has a bank of north facing clerestory windows and this soft light is borrowed by interior classrooms by means of large sloped glazing areas. Each exterior classroom has windows to the outside, and an operable sash provides a much desired natural option for individual temperature and ventilation control by teachers.
On this nine acre site, which slopes thirty feet from north to south, the building was oriented so the main entries are on the south side, protected from the prevailing northwest winds. The primary play areas are on the east side, to be warmed by the early morning sunshine. The smaller masses of classroom areas are closest to the surrounding residential housing, while the higher mass of the Multi-Purpose and Gymnasium areas are oriented more interior to the site. This school site is also part of a community park. Parking is oriented to be convenient for both park and school uses. Although the school does not depend on park facilities, they are positioned so that sharing can take place.