Dr. John Ochsner Discovery Health Sciences Academy

Grace Hebert Curtis Architects created a space for focused learning at the Dr. John Ochsner Discovery Health Sciences Academy in Jefferson, Louisiana.

Dr. John Ochsner Discovery Health Sciences Academy is designed to support innovation and community development through its provision of 21st Century Learning Environments.

Meeting the demand for enhanced STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) education in Louisiana, the academy proudly offers five distinct learning communities, each characterized by unique colors that create a neighborhood-like identity across the grade levels. By organizing classrooms according to grade level within these communities, the academy actively promotes collaboration among students throughout the school day.

The academy’s state-of-the-art building is designed to amplify its mission and provide a conducive environment for a rigorous curriculum. Students are encouraged to excel academically, cultivate intellectual curiosity, and practice environmental responsibility while exploring health and science.

Named after Dr. John Ochsner, a renowned cardiologist and son of Ochsner Health founder Dr. Alton Ochsner, the school represents a partnership between the Ochsner Health system and Discovery Health Sciences Academy, building on their shared commitment to education and the future of Louisiana. Serving approximately 800 students from pre-K through eighth grade, this charter school embodies their vision.

Inspired by the concept of the building blocks of life, the design of the health- and science-focused school is evident in its fa├žade. The exterior features a linear “block” design, showcasing different textures and materials that blend harmoniously. Playful and engaging, the contemporary finishes seamlessly integrate the school into the residential neighborhood while symbolizing science and active learning. The central courtyard, with its floor-to-ceiling transparency, proudly displays the interior’s emphasis on science and active learning.

Inside the school, the environment continues to stimulate and inspire. Each learning community and collaborative space is distinguished by large wall graphics and progressively more complex shapes, subtly indicating academic progression.

Outdoor spaces include a secure courtyard, enclosed by the U-shaped building. A drainage swale, resembling the heart, symbolizes the school’s arterial function by removing water from the site. This interactive feature provides students with a natural representation of the vital organ. Additionally, an onsite garden supplies produce for the teaching kitchen, which serves as a practical learning space.

Design: Grace Hebert Curtis Architects
Photography: Mark Bienvenu