Set along protected wetlands and across from the Discovery Museum, the new Interdistrict Discovery Magnet School (IDMS), Bridgeport, Conn., is a thematic elementary-level school that focuses on earth sciences and math. Blending green building principles, art and an overarching message about the Earth, the school reflects not only the curriculum, but also the community’s commitment to living sustainably.

The school’s mission includes a core focus on earth science, which is enhanced by the facility’s intimate relationship with nature. Classrooms are mainly situated in two extending wings of the school layout. By integrating art into the school’s architecture—and by integrating the school itself into the surrounding environment—the school is a place of learning that teaches students to embrace the Earth, literally by example.

The classrooms make the most of windows, not only to bring views of the outside environment in, but also to incorporate daylight into educational areas. Daylighting offers the twin benefits of reducing the cost of electricity for artificial light and improving overall student performance. Other cost-effective features include energy-conservation and sustainability strategies, including solar power, stormwater retention and reuse, and recycled materials used in construction.

Because IDMS incorporates the study of fossils into its curriculum—Connecticut is home to a trove of dinosaur fossils—all the artwork is fossil-themed. Interior and exterior walls are decorated to suggest Connecticut’s unique geological strata, and decorative artwork at the school entry bears shapes found in the area’s fossil record, such as leaves.

The school, which is on track to receive LEED silver certification, was designed by Svigals + Partners (New Haven, Conn.)