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Low-Cost, High-Impact
Campus Planning

Leveraging the outdoors to expand STEAM and nature-based learning district-wide


North Monterey Unified School District wanted to build a world class STEAM-based curriculum for its 4,500 Pre-K through 12th grade students. But with its low-income, mostly rural, immigrant population, NMCUSD could not procure the capital funds to renovate, much less build, new learning facilities on any of its seven campuses.


MKThink led a data-driven assessment of the district’s campuses, co-crafted guiding principles, and led a multi-track engagement process to determine the dimensions of campus needs pre and post-pandemic. This revealed the opportunity to expand campus capacity by leveraging the flow, quality, and utilization of outdoor spaces to support STEAM and nature-based learning. MKThink then developed low-cost, high-impact priority projects to generate community excitement while meeting the district’s guiding principles.


By supporting outdoor initiatives, NMCUSD is increasing its effective capacity for instruction by 15% in addition to the 20% indoor instructional capacity increase that is part of the master plan. The plan increases the diversity of spaces at a fraction of the cost of equivalent new buildings. New outdoor learning spaces include: 34 outdoor classrooms, 16 nature play areas, 30 interaction spaces, 6 edible gardens, and 11 outdoor STEAM lab extensions. By using ‘living schoolyard’ guidelines, NMCUSD will replace over 5.5 acres of asphalt with permeable surfacing and natural play areas – initiatives that have been shown to provide learning and environmental benefits.


North Monterey County Unified School District


Facilities Master Plan
Education Specifications
Covid Planning
Brand Strategies
Planning and Concept Design


Moss Landing, CA


460,000 NSF of built area


Pre-K through 12 Education


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