Muckleshoot Tribal School

High school drop-out rates and the fact that many of the Tribes students were choosing to attend other schools in the region led to plans for a new K-12 campus endowed with a strong sense of cultural identity. The Muckleshoot Tribal K-12 School was built on a new campus, replacing an existing facility of portables and aging buildings. An early learning facility on the same site was completed after the school to create a center of education for the Tribes children, from birth through high school.
Creating a strong sense of community and cultivating traditional teachings were key design goals for the Muckleshoot Tribal School. The project was a design-build partnership between Mahlum and BNBuilders, Inc. The project is composed of four buildings housing elementary, middle, and high school programs, as well as a shared gym, dining and performance spaces. They are organized as a village around a communal courtyard space and were inspired by the simple forms of the cedar longhouses characteristic to the Puget Sound region. Students are consistently connected to the art and culture that define the identity of the Muckleshoot Indian Tribe as they move through the campus.
The project achieved LEED for Schools Silver certification. The project earned all ten energy savings credits due to the combination of energy efficient mechanical systems and daylighting. The building form was developed to allow effective daylighting and to harness the consistent breezes on the site through the natural ventilation stacks on the roofs. During cooler months when the operable windows will remain closed, demand control CO2 sensors activate the mechanical ventilation system. The fresh air is tempered by central heat recovery air handlers in each building. Heat is provided by perimeter hydronic radiators served by a central high-efficiency boiler. High indoor air quality was achieved with the use of healthy materials, low VOC/emissions, and IAQ measures taken during construction. Materials with significant recycled content and locally-sourced materials were also used extensively.
During the course of design, the team worked closely with the school board and faculty, as well as the tribal community, elders, historians, native language speakers, and artists. Throughout the process, the team met with these stakeholders to develop and refine concepts for integrating expressions of the Tribes culture and history throughout the school. The campus grew rich in symbolism, referencing the Tribes history, their connection to nature, their craft and traditions, as well as the path each student travels throughout the grades.
From the first steps onto the campus, an entry feature in the form of traditional canoes and bronze door handles cast from hand-carved cedar paddles reflect the Tribes river culture. Two walkways under cedar canopies connect the buildings, and are finished to evoke the character of the Green and White Rivers, the two rivers that help define the identity of the Muckleshoot Indian Tribe. The heart of the campus, formed by two interlocking, circular gathering spaces, opens to views of nearby Mount Rainier. The main courtyard, decorated with the pattern of a Muckleshoot basket, serves large gatherings and community events. Carved into a landscaped berm around this space, a small amphitheatre serves as a story-telling or teaching circle for smaller groups. On the interior, community spaces range in scale from an elders story-telling circle in the library to a large assembly area that will support an annual potlatch of up to 1,500 people for dining and performance.
Daylight and views to the landscape define the halls and teaching spaces throughout the school. Classrooms are flooded with natural light from skylights, operable windows, and generous transoms at the corridors. Along one side of each corridor, between classroom entries, large murals depict animal characters designed by a Muckleshoot artist, together with their names in Whulshootseed, the Tribes traditional language. On the other side, alternating views along the corridors open to landscaped raingardens, outdoor learning settings and views to the mountain.
Each courtyard has its own character and mix of plants that reflect different habitats or ecosystems. Wherever you walk on the school site you will find plants that are part of the history and natural landscape of the Muckleshoot. Plants that were traditionally used by the Muckleshoot as food, shelter, craft, medicine, and seasonal indicators were given special attention and can be found throughout the courtyards and out in the wetlands beyond the softball field. Drainage on the site is by a natural system that cleans and stores rainwater in the same way that our forests manage rainwater through the soil and plants, along waterways and in wetlands. In years to come the reforestation area will begin to support a diverse habitat of trees, shrubs, birds and invertebrates. As the plantings mature, students will be able to add new plants to this growing forest. Since the school opened, the staff and students have already begun planning a raised garden for students to try thei!
r hand at growing native plants, as well as for supplying the fresh produce for school lunches.
This new education campus represents a significant investment from the Tribe, both financial and emotional, in the future of their children. The design strives to encourage students, teachers, and staff to become knowledgeable about the Tribes history and traditions, link students with the natural world and resource conservation, while at the same time providing a facility with all of the modern teaching tools expected in schools today.


Project Type


15599 SE 376th St, Auburn, 98092,