Studio School of Durham classrooms – or Studios – are created for research, learning, invention, and intention. We draw our inspiration from the studios or “ateliers” found in the highly successful municipal preschools of Reggio-Emilia, Italy. The studio approach is specifically designed to foster a culture of respect, promote student achievement, and develop individual character.

Student Community

Each studio is a tight-knit community of mixed-age learners who work and learn together. Kindergarten and first-grade students are taught in small groups using a hands-on curriculum designed to build the social, academic, and work ethic skills that support project-based learning. Second- through fifth-grade students also collaborate in groups. As they develop, students earn higher levels of responsibility for the goals, progress, and direction of their learning with support from their teachers.


Our well-designed and flexible studios maximize discovery, work, and mastery. The studios are visually rich and infused with abundant natural daylight from large windows, which has been shown to improve student performance in math and reading. We stock each room with authentic materials, tools, and invitations for students browsing, exploration and use in daily learning. This ensures ample opportunities for students to engage at their own level of curiosity, comfort and challenge. Over time, they expand their work and develop increasingly complex and flexible thinking. 


Design Studio


At The Studio School of Durham, imagination meets innovation. With our hands-on focus, students are empowered to observe, tinker, create, engineer, and learn. Students work through their own questions and real world problems utilizing a range of materials, tools, and technology.

Our Design Studio is a dedicated and intentional space built specifically for the purpose of allowing children to be creators, designers, builders, engineers, and tech enthusiasts at the beginning of their elementary education. We believe that children deserve the opportunity and time to discover, be curious, and tinker. STEM is promoted as a tool to cultivate a learning mindset, helping children develop a comfort and love of science and math.  Our Design Studio is a true maker space, nurturing curiosity and discovery. Students work with maker supplies and activities including loose parts, cameras, 3D printers, coding, and robotics.



Rather than focus on traditional units of study, The Studio School projects are carefully developed and designed for students to learn traditional topics like science, social studies, and history. Our projects do double duty and also   instill and incorporate the growth of valuable real world skills and abilities to prepare children for the jobs of the future.


Beyond rote learning and and strictly academic review, each project includes hands-on activities, core skills development, and artistic explorations. Thoughtful project work creates an authentic need for students to learn more – to gain knowledge or acquire a specific skill, or formula to further their work.

Our project work encourages our students to become active in the learning process where their curiosity is seen as a valuable resource. Through this process students address interesting and relevant challenges, develop driving questions, set goals using a co-created rubric system, research their topic, document their process, present their findings and reflect upon their learning process. Students learning through inquiry and investigation have vast opportunities in the areas of decision-making and critical thinking – it allows them to acquire information and concepts in an authentic way. Our projects often take students off site on field trips, such as walking through the community during a study of architecture. Experts and special visitors knowledgeable on our topics of study are also frequent visitors to the Studio.

Our projects last about six weeks, ending with a public exhibition where students share their project work and learning with peers and families. Our focus is not a beautiful end product, but a true representation of learning, challenges, breakthroughs, and failures. All of this is documented over time for a clear view of progress.


Daily Schedule


 At the heart of our schedule you will find freedom and flexibility with a harmonious blend of structure and rigor. Our students have a firm daily schedule, but every day is different because of the broad offerings of new subject matter and opportunities to explore provided by our projects and amazing Design Studio.

A typical school day starts with an inspiring Socratic discussion and morning meeting, followed by significant blocks time for students to work on core skills and a morning recess period. Students have flexibility to move about, take breaks, and generally utilize the space to learn where and how they are most comfortable. The goal is for students to govern their time and effort to best support their personal learning.

Sample Schedule:

8:00 – 8:30am – Children arrive
8:30am – Launch begins promptly
9:00am – 11:00am Core Skills (Reading/Math/Writers Workshop)
11:00am – 12:00pm – Recess
12:00pm – 12:30pm – Lunch
12:30pm – 1:15pm – D.E.A.R or Read Aloud
1:15pm – 2:30pm – Project Time and/or Design Studio Time
2:30pm – 2:50pm – Studio Maintenance
2:50 – 3:00pm – Daily Close & Reflection
3:00pm – Dismissal