One Minnesota high school, originally constructed in a forest area, added new biology and earth science lab/classrooms immediately adjacent to the forest and provided doors directly outside so that small groups or the entire class could go out to observe the flora and fauna nearby. A new high school in the Portland, OR area was built immediately adjacent to a creek that handled run-off from adjacent subdivisions and commercial developments. The creek area was turned into a wetland restoration project by the school’s biology faculty, allowing students the opportunity to experience first hand the impact of physical development on the environment.
Large group meeting spaces are needed for class discussions and for the presentation of results and conclusions by individual student teams. Such spaces can be a traditional classroom, the “classroom” portion of a combination lab/classroom, an auditorium, or a dedicated science presentation space. Such spaces need to have satisfactory light controls so that PowerPoint or other media presentations can be projected. Large, overhead projection screens should be available as well as hard-wired or wireless access points to the school’s computer network.
Buildings that teach. Science education does not have to be confined to the dedicated science teaching spaces. Many schools are using the building itself as a teaching tool, replacing opaque ceiling tiles with clear Lexan and providing lighting above the ceiling so that students can see the various systems that support and serve the building. One school substituted a section of glass pipe for cast iron in a sanitary sewer line so that students could see the flow of water, and other stuff, through the pipe. A high school chemistry teacher in Kirkwood, MO had his class recreate the periodic table on the ceiling tiles of the classroom using various carefully cut vinyl letters and symbols. Resilient flooring can include scientific symbols, have a tessellation pattern or a fractal pattern design, demonstrate the scale of the solar system, or act as a compass. A number of schools have included large-scale sundials as part of the architecture, one in Chicago has a flag hanging in a south-facing stairwell and the wall marked with the hours, a second in Albuquerque has a tall armature in an entry courtyard with the compass points and the hours inscribed in the brick paving. A school in the Boston, MA area constructed a water barometer in a stairwell from glass pipe so that students entering the stair at the top level can see what the weather is likely to be. A Denver, CO area school used its science entry tower as an astrometrics lab by putting a glass lens at the peak of its conical roof and ruling the walls of the cylindrical tower with analemmas. Science display cases, possibly passing through the wall of the adjacent lab/classroom can display things related to a current theme of study, or display historical scientific instruments, etc. Aquaria and terraria can also be set in classroom walls so that they can be observed from both classroom and adjacent corridor. A school in St. Louis, MO has footprints of various animals, ranging from a frog up to a human pressed “in the concrete of a walkway leading from its courtyard pond to the entry door. Many of these wonderful ideas cost little or nothing to add to the design of the building and were often suggested by the science faculty during the early planning stages of a project.