The Jan Phillips Learning Center

When it comes to practicing what you preach, The College School in suburban St. Louis is leading the way. Since its founding in 1963, the school has had a mission of engaging and captivating children ages 3 to 14 through hands-on, nature-based experiential learning. Sustainability is a common theme throughout the curriculum. The school is also a U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon School.

In May of 2017, the school unveiled the 3,000-square-foot Jan Phillips Learning Center, located at its 28-acre off-site LaBarque Campus near Pacific, MO. Within the learning center are a classroom/community space, a workshop, restrooms and a storage area which doubles as a protective shelter against storms. In addition to the learning center, the project also includes a 1,400-square-foot outdoor classroom/pavilion and a 2,150-square-foot plaza, which doubles as a solar observatory.

The learning center is designed to achieve net-zero energy, water, and waste. “Green” features employed at the Jan Phillips Learning Center include rainwater capture and reuse, composting toilets that make use of resources that otherwise would be wasted, daylighting, natural ventilation, renewable energy, salvaged and locally harvested low toxicity materials, an aqueduct, a stream feature wall, stained glass storytelling panels and a stone chimney which represents the geology of the area.

The Jan Phillips Learning Center serves as the base of operations for the LaBarque Campus and all of the ecological and scientific studies, adventure education, and cultural, historic and arts projects that take place there.

Just as important, the learning center is a place for The College School to connect with the larger community. The learning center will be used to host conferences and workshops on experiential learning for teachers from schools throughout the St. Louis area as well as a site for students from local schools to visit and experience alongside students from The College School.

Quick Facts about The Jan Phillips Learning Center

  • Location: The College School’s 28-acre LaBarque Campus in Pacific, MO
  • Construction Start: June 2015
  • Project Cost: $2 million
  • Project Footprint: 6,550 square feet total; 3,000-square-foot classroom, 1,400-square-foot outdoor pavilion, 2,150-square-foot outdoor plaza
  • Architect: Hellmuth Bicknese
  • Contractor: Harlan Construction Company
  • Materials Used: Lobby wainscoting is made from old-growth Douglas fir salvaged from the Checkerdome. Other lumber used was sourced from downed trees from Grant’s Farm, Jefferson Barracks and the LaBarque campus
  • The stone geologic fireplace chimney incorporates stones located on the LaBarque property

Read more about the LaBarque Campus here.


Unless otherwise stated, all photos are © The College School. Photos are explicitly for editorial purposes only. For all other purposes (e.g. books, scientific papers, documentaries), please contact

Subject Matter Experts

The College School is happy to provide subject matter experts around The Jan Phillips Learning Center and LaBarque Campus. Please contact Jill Pampel,, 314-962-9355 to arrange an interview.

John McElwainJohn McElwain, Director of Sustainability and LaBarque Campus

John is the Auxiliary Programs Coordinator and helps bring enrichment programs to the LaBarque Campus, After School Program, and Summer Camp Programs. He began working at The College School in 2011 as a substitute teacher and in the After School Program. His background in business and owning a restaurant grounded many of his skills to coordinate and cultivate our auxiliary programs and to welcome current families and families from the public to various auxiliary programs. John completed his Masters in Education in Counseling which serves him well for his additional role of Faculty Support, where he supports and leads various student programs throughout the year. He wrote the school’s application for the national Green Ribbon School Award, which was won in spring of 2012. John takes his passion for nature and the environment wherever he goes, especially while enjoying scuba diving, fishing, paddling, camping and backpacking trips. He enjoys spending time with his wife and their daughter, who is also a student at The College School.

Jan Phillips, Former Head of School

Former Head of School and teacher at The College School. The learning center is named in Jan’s honor.