Children enter the dome barefoot and walk across a small stream to a green seating area for reading, play, or self-reflection. Tropical plants create a lush interior setting, while native plants on the exterior of the dome provide habitat for the endangered migratory Monarch butterflies and other pollinators. Electronic motion sensors generate a soundscape of natural terrain when the children are still, and clay sensors tucked away in the plants trigger recordings of live animals when touched.
These classrooms have the potential to mitigate issues such as ADD/ADHD, stress, depression, and anxiety, and they are known to allow children to be creative, explore, and to stimulate learning in a diverse environment. Classrooms such as this are the way of the future.
The Sacatella Creek Biolibrary and Sound Sanctuary
This Biolibrary was the first ORBS. It was designed to create a healthy learning environment at LILA school Los Angeles and support its native ecology.
The general premise for the Biolibrary and Sound Sanctuary is rooted in R. Murray Schafer's acoustic playground concept. These playgrounds are environments where children in urban areas, can be protected from the negative effects of industrial noise. Although this Biolibrary does not have full acoustic isolation, it does have its own acoustic environment which is comprised of a mixture of physical landscapes and interactive soundscapes. With an active stream and pond within the dome, the natural sounds of water mask much of the sounds of traffic, machinery, and other noises from the urban environment.
Exploring beyond the roll of the project as a throwback to Schafers designs, it is the preliminary prototype of ORBS, interactive urban wilderness environments as it includes technology-embedded naturescapes.
Equipped with a surround-audio system, each sitting pod triggers an element of a rainforest soundscape when children sit still. This renders the Biolibrary a sort of reverse playground where sitting still activates the environment and produces a calming and restorative acoustic sanctuary. With natural light, ergonomic seating areas allowing for postures supported by the dug out earth, the increased levels of oxygen from the plants and the water along with their contribution to filtering the air from common pollutants in the area, it makes for a new and vital interpretation of a learning environment. It also creates a space for wonder-driven exploration as children find a natural curiosity in the soil, insects, plants, and pond creatures that drives them to learn about our biosphere.
The Biolibrary quickly proved to act as a hands-on earth-sciences laboratory not only within the dome, but also outside in the butterfly way station native plant garden. A habitat for monarch butterflies and other native pollinating insects, children experience the life cycles and patterns of the local biome. Serving as a retreat for kids both in groups and individuals, the dome has also become a place for meditation as well as concentrated reading and studying.