“America will rank first in science and mathematics by the year 2000.”
These lofty-sounding words are part of Goals 2000, the federal Educate America Act. The turn of the century is fast approaching, but we’ve barely made a start in responding to this mandate. Though science supervisors, district officials and architects are scrambling to create better teaching and research facilities, many fall short of the mark. Often, lab installations and renovations merely rehash designs from the 1950s and ‘60s.
Fortunately, change is afoot – as evidenced by the following examples of forward-thinking science facilities. The schools illustrated here have broken out of the ‘60s mode. Their science facilities are characterized by flexible space, integration of curriculum, and provisions for independent and small-group learning – all enhanced by extensive computer availability. Most districts can benefit from the lessons these facilities teach.
The year 2000 is almost here. With the help of top-notch science facilities, students in these six districts may be on their way to achieving those lofty federal goals.
One – Integrate curriculum for school-wide science
Westside Middle School in Omaha, Neb., has renovated into four “houses,” each with its own integrated curriculum. Each house has its own group of classrooms, including a traditional science lab and classroom, and its own internal “Discovery Center.” The center is a technology resource lab for all subjects and is an electronic extension of the central media center. Small-group project areas and technology-equipped work stations are networked for schoolwide voice, data and video transmission. The center makes it possible for students to work together on projects that integrate science with other disciplines, enhancing every program in the curriculum.
Two – Save money with multipurpose labs
Oakville Senior High School, in St. Louis County, Mo., has two prototype multipurpose labs. The faculty helped develop lab layouts suitable for any course in the integrated curriculum. For instance, specially constructed tables accommodate a 2-meter long physics experiment but also provide the wet services required for other disciplines.
Teachers at Oakville also concluded that lab work represents 50 percent or less of total class time in every one of the school’s science courses. Thus the new wing was designed so that two science classrooms share each lab.
Since classrooms cost about half as much as labs, this tactic saved the district significant construction dollars.