Future is now at King’s Schools new STEM Center
In the midst of a national effort to improve education in science, technology, engineering and math, known by the acronym STEM, King’s Schools is leaping to the front of the pack this week with the opening of its $11 million STEM Center on the Shoreline campus.
The new facility was dedicated Wednesday and named the Bundrant Ness Center in honor of the two families that were major donors. The Bundrant and Ness families are the partners/owners of Trident Seafoods.
The state-of-the-art, 15-classroom facility includes six laboratories as well as specialized areas for technology, physics, chemistry and biology classes.
And, according to Superintendent Eric Rasmussen, students will be working with teachers who are among the best in education.
“We have assembled an outstanding faculty – as good as anyone in the profession,” Rasmussen said.
King’s Schools had already been building a reputation for advances in its STEM education programs, in particular thanks to its highly successful robotics program.
Earlier this year, King’s claimed a second place finish at the 2013 FTC World Championships.
But, until now, many of the classes and programs were scattered around the campus or off campus, making collaboration more difficult.
With the opening of the STEM Center, collaborative efforts will be a major focus – not just among the disciplines on campus, but all over the world.
And that has educators like science teacher Sharon Santucci excited.
She said scientists tended to work in isolation, among their own kind.
“In the past, nobody talked,” Santucci said. “Now it’s such an interconnected discipline.”
Students will be working with one another across disciplines at King’s, and mining data banks and information from all over the world during the course of their schoolwork.
“I want to raise the next generation of scientists to affect society – that’s the future,” Santucci said.
“This is a phenomenal opportunity for these kids. What we’re going to be able to do now is off the charts.”
Those sentiments were echoed by physical science teacher Jennifer Simmons, who said of the new facility, “It’s so exciting, not only to have the space, but the technology we’re having access to, the equipment… It sets a wonderful tone. It sets the bar high for excellence.”
It won’t all be pure STEM, educators noted. A new media center, equipped with the latest large-screen iMacs, will feature visual media and graphic design courses, a place where a taste of the arts turns STEM into STEAM.
Gwen Gracey, a teacher at King’s for 37 years, said the media center will make her job even more enjoyable.
“It’s the kids’ future,” Gracey said. “To be able to invest more in the digital arts is important, too. In fact, the kids are teaching me!
“I love my job,” she said. “This is a great place to be.”
Supt. Rasmussen said educators already had seen a steady climb in students enrolling in STEM courses.
He said about 75 percent of high schoolers at King’s are taking math or science, or both, all four years.
When students get their first look at the STEM Center this week, he expects enrollment numbers will climb even higher.
Besides the state-of-the-art classrooms and labs with their “Smart Boards” (interactive whiteboards), removable walls, new media center, machine shop and other equipment and systems, students will find “lounges” for relaxation and collaboration during breaks.
Chances are, however, many of them will want to spend as much time as possible in the classrooms.
Robotics instructor Michael Thompson, who coached this year’s successful team in the world championships, said students will be able to work on projects from conception to implementation in the STEM Center.
“We’ll be taking the student and all the abstract things they’ve been learning, and making it real to them,” Thompson said.
In a world that fosters short attention spans, students will be working on problems that may take weeks or months to solve – the kind of long-term, collaborative skills that industry is demanding from schools.
And students, perhaps bored with short-term, isolated endeavors, are thriving.
Educators could see their excitement in the robotics competition when the gym filled up with young people eager to cheer for “sports of the mind.”
“You’ve got a gym full of geeks and nerds that are relishing the fact that they’re going to rule the world someday,” Thompson said.
“We’re changing the culture so that rather than view only athletes as icons, we’re going to make scientists the icons.”
And, at King’s Schools, they’ll be doing it in a facility designed to work as well in the future as today.
“We tried to think through what it would look like 20 years from now,” Rasmussen said.
That forward thinking prompted builders to utilize Washington Sustainable Schools Protocal, and they are awaiting certification for the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Silver Status award for sustainable design and construction practices.
Designers even included a rain garden outside that will handle most of the stormwater runoff for the entire campus.
“This new building will provide the improvements required to educate students in all aspects of the STEM disciplines,” said Sally Ralston, director of marketing and admissions of King’s Schools.
“It allows them to meet today’s educational demands while being equipped to work with those they will encounter tomorrow.”
King's Schools is an independent, interdenominational Christian school in Shoreline for students from preschool to grade 12.
King's has been recognized in the Seattle area for its commitment to providing an exemplary college-preparatory education in a spiritually vital, caring community.
For more information about King’s Schools, contact Sally Ralston (206-546-7218, firstname.lastname@example.org ).