October 1, 2013 - ID3A, LLC
Charles H Barrows Academy Complete
As the first STEM School in northeast Connecticut, the new 83,700 square foot Charles H. Barrows STEM Academy accommodates 600 students ranging from full-day pre-kindergarten through 8th grade and serves Windham and ten surrounding towns. The high quality STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) program creates a diverse setting with a Feeder Pathway into a high school STEM program within the Windham school district. The program extends to the college level and supports a longitudinal educational experience for students interested maintaining in a theme-based learning experience.
STEM Curriculum & Community
Originally slated as an Environmental and Cultural Magnet School, a major curriculum change occurred during construction. The curriculum change was greatly influenced by the needs of the region. Located in a rural area with low socio-economic levels, the region maintained a historically poor academic record. STEM education has recently become a catalyst of high quality instruction. This new STEM school serves as an option of educational excellence with a theme orientation that will invigorate an under-performing school system. Students who study within the STEM fields are well prepared for high school and college with a strong understanding of core academic content and self-driven learning.
As a historic mill town, the gable stone façade is reminiscent of Windham’s history and culture. Utilizing this concept, the original floor plan was designed around two large courtyards, anchored by stone gable “mills” which connect with contemporary glass corridors and classrooms. The combination of the historic mill elements with the clean, contemporary, technology-driven spaces create a cohesive modern aesthetic.
There were many requirements and challenges to be addressed in the design; the first and foremost being the size. According to State guidelines, the school could not exceed 85,000 square feet in order to receive full reimbursement from the state. To maximize use and flexibility, large spaces were designed to serve dual purposes. Both the cafeteria and gymnasium can be used as performance space offering light-filtering and room darkening screens, portable stages and flexible seating arrangements.
The school’s original goal was to use the building itself as a learning tool for students. Despite the curriculum change, this remained a focus of design as it integrated well within science and technology programs. The school is fitted with teaching tools such as interactive smart boards which are linked to a dashboard which displays live data from the solar panels and the wind turbine which is sited in front of the school. Rather than being hidden, the buildings mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems are exposed so students can easily see how the building functions.
Situated at the core of the building, the new project science room cantilevers into the courtyards below which serve as outdoor classrooms. The students can view rainwater as it drains off the roof down rain chains into a bio-swale which runs through the center of the courtyard. The Oceanography Lab is equipped with distant learning capabilities providing the opportunity to link to UConn and EConn. Salt and fresh water aquariums and a touch-tank are teaching tools for aquatic and marine sciences and biology studies. A dedicated technology room offers bench space and a 3D Cad printer to produce student models.
Additional sustainable features include a sundial, and butterfly, vegetable, flower and sensory gardens which are used as learning tools for the students. Since the facility is located in a wetland area, a retention basin was constructed to manage water on the site which is fed from the bio-swale in the courtyard. The wind turbine, solar electric panels and photovoltaic panels generate power, reducing the schools energy consumption.
Not only did the new school fill a much needed gap in the school system of the area, it offers something uniquely beneficial to the Science Technology Engineering& Math curriculum.