Texas A&M Math and Science Education Center

Outdoor STEM-Based Laboratories
This learning facility houses informal, imaginative, and open-ended science and math labs for teacher training that is a departure from formal educational centers of its kind.
Teachers learning to facilitate the inquiry process find that the environment is designed to physically and intellectually promote that paradigm shift – abstract thinking, discovery, and hands-on engagement are supported within the flexible spaces, indoors and out-of-doors.

The playful, entry pylons called i-Beacons create a sense of arrival and anticipation. Signifying the interactive nature of the center, the kinetic totems with their “i am” logos make empowering references. Dotting the “i” with a star acknowledges the home state and suggests imminent individual achievements. The interior science and math labs are designed as a kit-of-parts of adaptable, multi-purpose furniture, equipment, and surfaces that support inquiry-based learning. Portable iQ carts feature a unique range of characteristics. Some feature sources of power, like wind and water while others feature a range of surfaces, from magnetic to one clad in Lego™. The Strata Walls are a series of dry-erase, pin, magnetic and tactile squares adding rhythm and activity.

Outdoor laboratory nodes, called Cabanas of Collaboration, provide hands-on STEM-based experiences and collaborative research that relate to air, soil, and water investigations adaptable for kindergarten through high school age students. The Land Cabana is an experimental garden node. A structural grid with trellis defines the space and creates shade, while its geometric spirolateral frame provides inspiration. The ground plane is also a grid, calibrated and paved so that students can modify the landscape – sorting, classifying, and arranging plant growth. After collecting animal and plant materials from local wetlands and the bay, students can examine them at the Water Cabana’s series of small ponds, tanks, and pumps. The third station, the Air Cabana, is an exploratory zone with a solar roof, fan, and pegboard bench for planting air-powered whirligigs. The modular framework at this node is inspired by DaVinci’s representation of the Vitruvian Man. Children become an integral part of the trellis sundial. Standing against the frame, their shadows become the time indicator. Connecting the landscape, the individual nodes, and the facility itself are stepping-stones, using quotations from great scientific and mathematical thinkers to inspire students of all ages.

Owner:  Texas A&M at Corpus Christi
Architecture, Master Plan & Interpretive Programming
Architecture Is Fun, Inc.
Location
:  Texas A&M at Corpus Christi
Status:
  Completed Research, Concept Design & Master Plan 2002