The Colchester School District Vision and Strategic Plan 2012–2017 emphasizes the importance of high standards and expanded opportunities for our students along with innovative, flexible approaches with a commitment to excellence. A Framework for K-12 Science Education: Practices, Crosscutting Concepts, and Core Ideas and the Vermont Science Curriculum and Standards also emphasize the critical importance of up-to-date learning environments.
And yet, while Colchester High School students’ academic performance has significantly improved in recent years and has even attracted the attention of the Vermont State Legislature as a result of these improvements, their science labs and classrooms—which have not been updated since the building’s construction in 1975—are considerably inadequate, placing our current and future students at a direct disadvantage as they prepare for their post-high school lives in an increasingly technological and scientific landscape. In working to better meet the instructional needs of our students and teachers, we envision revitalized science labs and an enhanced instructional center.
In October, Colchester School District requested community partners interested in collaborating on this endeavor. We indeed amassed a fantastic committee consisting of scientists from our community representing an array of scientific disciplines, as well as school board members, administrators, an exceptional CHS science student, and science educators, and since then, the group has accomplished a great deal of work.
- Committee members have toured the existing science facilities to observe firsthand the facilities’ current condition and why they are no longer sufficient for twenty-first-century learners.
- The community scientists serving on the committee have discussed current best practices in the field of science and have provided valuable insight into the numerous considerations that must be taken into account when creating thoughtfully designed science instructional environments.
- Black River Design has offered extensive expertise and a number of options for the potential project’s design based upon the committee’s insight, including strategic floor planning to maximize flexibility, functionality, and long-term serviceability for our students and staff. Committee members have extensively discussed a number of the proposed floor plans to determine the safest, most optimally designed and technology-rich yet cost-effective option. The considerations include but are not limited to:
- access to and flexibility of instructional spaces and equipment configurations
- storage considerations, including proper storage and ventilation of chemicals and other science-related materials
- maximizing energy efficiency and its associated cost savings and environmental impact
- monopolizing upon cost incentives whenever possible
- inclusion of student and teacher meeting areas
- maximizing natural light
- composition of classroom fixtures and materials
- optimal locations of sinks, gas valves, hood systems, emergency showers, demonstration tables, electrical outlets, smartboards, projectors, computers, and more
- safety and security considerations
- possible construction schedules and related logistical considerations
(For a .pdf version of this design, please click here.)
We present to the Colchester community a comprehensive, well-thought-out, highly serviceable and flexible plan for these revitalized learning environments—as well as its associated costs—to be considered for support on Town Meeting Day 2013. These labs will offer collegiate-level, professional-grade learning environments for the current and future students of Colchester High School.
(For a .pdf version of this sketch, please click here.)
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