Q&A: Design Trends in STEM Classrooms
Answering your questions related to STEM classrooms
In our work, clients often want to know: what are the latest trends? what are my peers doing? So we occasionally distill our thoughts on a specific topic into a Q&A format.
How have the Next Generation Science Standards impacted classroom design?
There has been a collision of learning trends that have collectively impacted the design of modern science classrooms. 21st century learning, increased focus on STEM curriculum, and Next Generation Science Standards have all resulted in a shift from a traditional lecture and lab approach to science curriculum. Today’s students use inquiry-based learning techniques to solve problems.
These changes demand spaces that support more than just a lecture space and adjoining lab. Students need breakout spaces where they can collaborate in small groups – they need fluid access to technology, whiteboard space, and areas to showcase their work.
Some schools are even modifying their curriculum and spaces to allow more crossover between subjects like biology, chemistry, physics, and earth sciences. The layout of classrooms, labs, and even an entire science wing can support this fusion of subjects with shared lab and collaboration spaces.
What are some of the features of these types of classrooms and labs?
In inquiry-based settings, students are challenged to design their own lab experiments. In response to this, we are seeing an increase in glass-front cabinets in the lab areas so that the supplies are more visually accessible.
Labs maintain flexibility by locating plumbing and gas utilities along the room perimeter to allow the interior of the space to morph as needed. Overhead access to power is replacing floor boxes for cleanliness, safety, and increased flexibility over time.
Technology in the lab is more prevalent as well, with schools opting to have screens mounted in the experiment areas. Students may use technology in a lab setting for research, following directions, watching instructional videos, or creating presentations.
How are schools integrating nature and sustainability in the curriculum?
Engaging students with the natural world shouldn’t only be theoretical and shouldn’t be limited to lower grade levels. Integrating nature in STEM curriculum is easier for teachers where there is easy connectivity to the outdoors from the classroom. Designers can consider connecting science classrooms to a courtyard, or placing a science wing near a retention pond, creek, garden, or greenhouse. This allows students to do the work associated with the experimentation.
Teachers can incorporate a school’s sustainable design elements into learning opportunities for students as well. We have seen lessons developed around wind turbines, solar arrays, composting, recycling, and stormwater management.
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