Project Highlight: Hawthorn School Science Courtyard

Project Name: Hawthorn Aspen Elementary School, Science Courtyard
Location: Vernon Hills, Illinois
Products: Brussels Block®, Il Campo® and Pisa2®
Landscape Architect: 3D Design Studio (Grayslake, IL)

The Science Courtyard project started as a request to simply connect two doors separated by a newly created outdoor courtyard and add some landscaping. 3D Design Studio recommended an outdoor classroom and many ideas blossomed from there. The central feature of the courtyard is a circular classroom.  Illustrating a representation of the solar system became a core design idea. The classroom (38’ in diameter) represents the diameter of the sun and the adjacent planets are constructed in scale with it. A local artist used Hubble Telescope Photos to accurately paint each planet.

Within the circular paver plaza, a flagpole casts a shadow, allowing us to create a sundial. In the center, a decorative compass rosette points to north, south, east and west. The primary walk connecting the two doors became a timeline. The distance between the doors required 334 – 6” bricks.  If each brick represented 15 million years, a timeline of the current estimated age of Earth ~ 5 Billion Years, was in place!  The rise of single cell organisms occurs about half way through and the timeline ends with the entire existence of mankind, a mere ¾” wide strip!


(Products: Brussels Block® [Sandstone] with Il Campo® [Heritage Brown] accents [with limited amount of engraved Il Campo Coffee Creek with Roman numerals] and Pisa2® [Sand] Seat Walls)

The paved walkways surrounding the outdoor classroom encompass the Illinois State Trail, which features all the state symbols- bird, fish, tree, mineral, native plants, even the state fossil.  The state trail helps children identify all these features with accurate representation either through high resolution photographs or the actual state symbol.

A simple request to connect two doors developed into a unique outdoor classroom, which created an outstanding interactive environment for both students and teachers.