Matapeake Elementary School
- Queen Anne’s County Public Schools
- 68,000 sf
- New construction
- Outdoor classroom courtyard with pond and bridge
- Gymnasium features double-sided theater stage
- AIA Maryland Public Project of the Year, AIA Maryland
- AIA Honor Award, AIA Potomac Valley
- Walter Taylor Award, American Association of School Administrators (AASA) + The Council of Educational Facility Planners (CEFPI) + AIA
- Certificate of Excellence, Association of School Business Officials (ASBO) International
Embrace the Bay – Teaching heritage, environment, community
A school is more than just a structure to house educational programming: it is an expression of a community’s personality and values. For Queen Anne’s County Public Schools (QACPS), that means communicating the distinct heritage, ecological gifts, and tight community bonds unique to Maryland’s Eastern Shore, on the Chesapeake Bay.
Located on historic Kent Island, Matapeake Elementary School embodies the simple principle of embracing the bay: each feature of the building was selected to teach organically the culture of Kent Island and the greater Eastern Shore. Organized around a centrally located library and courtyard, Matapeake is broken into large classroom areas which, from the exterior, look like distinct houses, and are connected by common spaces intended for student collaboration. This interconnected design fosters teamwork between students, and encourages a sense of community. A naturally lit central promenade acts as the community’s “main street,” bisecting the building between the classroom wings and the gymnasium, cafeteria, and administrative offices, functioning as an auditory and optional security barrier supporting community use. The gymnasium features a double-sided theater stage, which can open into the gym, or outside onto a grassy slope that provides natural stadium seating.
Bringing the environment into the classroom (and vice versa) was central to QACPS’ vision. Highlighting the unique setting of the Chesapeake Bay, spanning windows provide cascading natural light and uninterrupted views of the fields, woods, and pond that surround the building—creating visual connection between the environment and classroom. Vaulted ceilings feature clerestory windows for additional light without increased glare, and thoughtfully exposed construction features encourage conversations about building construction, sustainability, and their interconnectivity. The enclosed central courtyard functions as an outdoor learning space, featuring a small pond and wooden bridge. Students can learn about the unique bionetwork inherent to the Chesapeake Bay, and the large pond allows for guided exploration of a larger ecosystem.
Inside the building, sinuous patterns of blues mimic flowing water, and exposed structure in nautical whites recalls the region’s maritime heritage. By looking within, QACPS expresses its values while investing in its future—giving visual form to the concepts of heritage, community, and conservation.