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Science in Structure (school buildings teach science)

Science learning does not have to stop at the classroom door. A well-designed project takes as many opportunities as possible to give students additional scientific stimulation. A periodic table on the ceiling of a chemistry lab/classroom, footprints and fossils of amphibians and animals in a courtyard sidewalk, and a tessellation pattern in the floor tile extend science learning beyond the classroom door. These examples are only a small sample of good ideas that enhance schools around the country. The best part of these ideas is that they are inexpensive or free, if incorporated into building planning in the early stages.

In a Denver school for the gifted, the architect included a fractal pattern in the resilient floor tile, generated by a mathematical program developed by a colleague. When the contractor had finished the floor, the architect found

Fractal Floor Pattern

Fractal Floor Pattern

two incorrectly installed tiles. The first was a mistake by the flooring contractor and was corrected; the second was the architect’s error in translating the results of the computer program. This one was left in place and the architect added a sign on the wall of the space describing fractal patterns, indicating that one tile in the pattern was incorrect, and offering a cash reward to the first student who could determine which tile was incorrect and explain why. This clever enhancement added nothing to the construction cost of the building.

During a renovation of a 1930s era school in St. Louis, the science teachers requested that a model of the solar system be included. A local model builder fabricated the planetary models and a local artist painted the Sun in

Suspended Planet Models in Solar System

Suspended Planet Models in Solar System

a corner of the new science room. The planets were to one scale and their separation was at a different scale; the architect added a sign on the wall explaining the concept of scale and why two different scales were required for the solar system model. The total cost of this unique enhancement
was $1,500.