As Marian High School got close to building its new Mary Joy and Tal Anderson Performing Arts Center, school officials realized the project would clear out the speech and theater room, one of the school’s classrooms.
With five science classrooms and six science teachers, they knew they needed another science classroom. And alumni indicated in surveys that they thought the school and its students would benefit from additional science and engineering classes.
In late May, Marian will start a significant renovation project to turn that old speech and theater room into a new science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) lab. The lab will provide room and new equipment for additional class offerings in science and technology. It also will serve as a home for the Catholic girls school’s new and popular robotics club, launched this year.
“We want to stay on the cutting edge of opportunities for our students in the career fields, and this is necessary to do that,” said Susan Toohey, the head of the school.
The lab will be modeled after one in the University of Nebraska at Omaha’s Roskens Hall, she said. Funding to build and equip it, estimated to cost $275,000, will come from the Lozier Foundation. The lab is scheduled to open the first day of school in the fall.
The lab won’t be the school’s only technology upgrade. Marian will equip every student with an iPad, a move expected to help students tap into emerging technologies and save money on books. A number of teachers have committed to shifting to electronic books, and some have written their own.
The school will lease the iPads, offsetting the cost by not replacing computers in one of three large computer labs. Families each year will pay a $350 technology fee that will cover the iPad and all related costs. Families now pay an average of $400 a year for textbooks, so replacing them with e-books should save money. A number of novels already are available online for free.
Toohey said the iPad initiative isn’t just about adding technology, however. With information changing so quickly, textbooks sometimes are outdated by the time they’re published. E-books also provide interactive features, such as 3-D images that students can rotate or explore.
“We really want to use that to enhance and engage learning in a different way,” she said.
Although the STEM lab and iPad initiative are separate projects, they will intersect.
Science teacher Sharon Genoways said every lab station will have a hub where students can plug in smartphones, iPads and robots. Each also will have a flat screen TV that will allow students and teachers to project and share data and images, such as what they’re seeing in a microscope. Teachers also can feed information to each screen.
“There’s a lot more interactive technology to share and a lot more opportunities for collaboration,” she said.
Tables all will be on casters so teachers can reconfigure them for various activities. A strut system will be suspended from the ceiling to provide support for pendulum labs or swings used to measure tension and torque.
Marian already produces a large number of aspiring engineers, Toohey said — typically 20 or more a year. The school this year added a physiology and anatomy class. Staff members also are looking at adding higher-level engineering classes, which it will determine with additional feedback.
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