With 12 new interdisciplinary laboratories, an outdoor classroom overlooking one of the world’s greatest natural resources, and new spaces dedicated to student-faculty research, Carthage’s new science center will be a model for integrated science education.
“Our investment in undergraduate research and education in the sciences is one of our strongest institutional commitments,” said Carthage President Gregory S. Woodward in announcing the project. “Our rapidly expanding enrollment and reputation in the natural sciences will be enhanced further through the creation of this state-of-the-art collection of laboratories, classrooms, faculty centers, and collaborative learning spaces.”
The project calls for a major renovation of the 70,000-square-foot David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Natural and Social Sciences, and a new 35,000 wing to the building’s south and east.
Here’s a look at how the new science center will change science education at Carthage:
Focus: The Lake
Physically, the new science center embraces its lakeside location, with a glass-enclosed atrium, soaring views in the new east wing, and an outdoor stone classroom overlooking Lake Michigan. But the lake provides more than just stellar views.
“The lake is symbolic of the division’s emphasis on interdisciplinary, grand challenges in science: energy, freshwater, the brain, the cosmos, climate change,” said Prof. Kevin Crosby, chair of the Division of Natural Sciences. “This new building provides us with a way to re-envision our curriculum around these societal challenges.
“Our integrated sciences initiative focuses in part on resource studies including freshwater and its ecosystems,” Prof. Crosby continued. “What better place to study these than on the shores of the second largest body of freshwater in the world?”
Architects met extensively with natural sciences faculty to determine the facility’s goals and priorities. Faculty emphasized the importance of a student-focused building, said Prof. Deanna Byrnes, assistant professor of biology. “Faculty wanted to have more interactive space in which to work with students on research projects and homework assignments, and spaces where students could work together outside of class.”
The new center features 12 laboratories for research in such leading areas as material science, cellular and molecular biology, biochemistry, and space and atmospheric sciences. There will be collaborative learning areas on every floor, complete with frosted glass surfaces for sketching out ideas as inspiration strikes. A glass-walled learning commons will serve as a tutoring center and student gathering spot.
It’s going to be a second home for science students, said Associate Vice President for Business Bill Hoare, who oversees all campus construction. “Here, students develop a relationship with the academic department that really exceeds the traditional four walls of teaching mentality. That’s why we’re paying very close attention to this building’s interactive zones, to where teaching continues outside the classroom, and where students will be at all hours of the day and night.”
Focus: Innovative Instruction
Classroom and laboratory space increases by 40 percent in the new science center, and the “lines between classroom and lab are blurred,” Prof. Crosby said. “In the new building, we’re broadly adopting studio-style integrated laboratory/classroom spaces that allow us to switch smoothly from hands-on investigation to discussion and lecture.”
That’s exciting, Mr. Hoare said. “I’m very interested in the instructional technology that’s going to go into this building. Our faculty are breaking away from the ‘Sage on a Stage’ type of classroom presentation, and moving toward a teacher-as-facilitator teaching style, which causes all kinds of changes to how these classrooms are designed.”
Focus: Science on Display
In addition to giving faculty new ways to educate, the new science center will provide both faculty and students with new opportunities to share the results of their work. The center’s two-story glass Integrated Sciences Pavilion will provide a striking new area for poster sessions, exhibits and other presentations. Glass-walled classrooms and laboratories will allow students and visitors to see science happening.