Tag Archives: science laboratories

Designing Schools for STEM

Is school design for STEM about encouraging chance encounters across subject areas?

The recent announcement by the SA Government of a $250m stimulus package to provide Science, Technology, Engineering & Maths (STEM) facilities for government schools has prompted the question: what does designing for STEM look like?

There are many articles noting how STEM skills are vital to the future of Australia; concerns about low numbers of science and mathematics graduates; and much talk about innovation. When it comes to design of spaces for STEM in schools, the principles seem to be the same as for most other disciplines: flexible, adaptable and interconnected environments which encourage a range of learning styles and cater for different group sizes and activities. We have seen the introduction of the Maker movement into schools, with laser cutters and 3D printers now common, and the rise of all things digital.

UniSA College: Science & Maths Centre, Mawson Lakes Photograph: Michael Bodroghy

UniSA College: Science & Maths Centre, Mawson Lakes  Photographer: Michael Bodroghy

 

When planning the UniSA College Centre for Science and Maths at Mawson Lakes, we emphasized a range of table, seating and display possibilities with less emphasis on traditional lab experiments and more on space for 3D printers and scanners. The structure of the existing building only allowed us to create very small display windows facing circulation areas – but this became an advantage as it gives a museum-like prestige to the objects on display. The building fabric also tells a story – the recycled timber ceiling screen is a graph of global warming. Continue reading

How teaching can influence the built environment.

A few years ago I was involved in a research program for young professionals facilitated by CEFPI (Council of Educational Facility Planners International) called the Mayfield Project. Our submission consisted of a number of case studies which explored the relationship between pedagogy and the built environment. I examined a recently completed open plan science lab building. The process had a huge influence on my professional development and the results changed the way I viewed educational design, they are summarised below:

A teachers classroom is like their home, it needs to be secure, provide privacy while being adaptable with good links to a range of spaces. Multi purpose or flexible spaces run the risk of becoming homeless. Openness and transparency can come at the expense of privacy and security. This Science Centre designed as open plan for accessibility attempts to find a middle ground.

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