STEM Academy offers science students a place to thrive in Kannapolis

Published 12:00 am Friday, September 2, 2011

By Sarah Campbell
KANNAPOLIS — The new STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) Academy on the campus of A.L. Brown High School is more than just a building to science teacher Diane Crawford, it’s an opportunity.
An opportunity to provide students with more ways to learn.
“I think it’s absolutely lovely,” she said. “I’m excited that we have the equipment and the space to work.”
Crawford said the “top of the line” facility will lend itself to projects and laboratory work that would have been impossible before.
“I’m excited about the possibilities,” she said.
The nearly 50,000- square-foot building, outfitted with state-of-the-art equipment, is home to 18 courses ranging from Spanish to bioethics this fall.
And Principal Kevin Garay said this is just the beginning. He eventually plans to hire at least two more teachers to expand course offerings.
Garay hopes to add one with a background in cell biology and the other to teach international studies.
What you’ll see
The $8.1 million STEM Academy is designed to mimic the Core Lab Building at the North Carolina Research Campus.
Each floor of the four-story facility is dedicated to a specific concentration.
The second floor currently houses world languages including Latin, French and Spanish. It will also eventually serve as the hub for global studies and the school’s communication classes that include journalism, yearbook and broadcasting.
Life sciences such as biology, allied health and ecology are found on the third floor. The fourth floor is home to physical sciences, including physics, chemistry and engineering.
The basement will serve as a school-based health center. It has an exam room, conference room and office for the school’s full-time nurse, Jenny Haislip.
Garay said between 30 and 40 students per day visit the nurse to receive medication or treatment.
A welcome center for international families will also be housed in the basement, which is about 85 percent complete.
First impressions
Junior Jess Parker admits she still gets lost in the new building sometimes.
“It’s just so big, but I really like it,” she said.
Seniors Natalie Hernandez and Jessica Graham feel the same way, but they both enjoy the extra space.
“I love it. There is room for everything,” Hernandez said.
Graham said she’s enjoying all the technology the building has to offer.
“It’s really futuristic,” she said.
Senior Kristen Wells agrees.
“The technology over there is absolutely amazing,” she said.
Garay said he’s been impressed with the pride students are taking in the facility.
“When I talk to the students about it they kind of light up. That shows that it’s really student centered,” he said.
A.L. Brown teachers were enlisted to help with the design of the facility to ensure that it was built around the curriculum.
“We wanted a first-rate facility, but we also wanted it to be designed around students’ needs and I think we accomplished that,” Garay said.
Building partnerships
The STEM Academy will allow the school to expand its partnerships with the North Carolina Research Campus.
Freshmen will be given health assessment through the Appalachian State University Human Performance Laboratory.
Jordan Baker’s engineering classes will continue to work with Dr. Carol Cheatham, a child psychologist and neuroscientist at the Nutrition Research Institute, by designing toys for her cognitive development research campus.
More internships for students and teachers will be available on the campus.
Grand opening
The district will host a grand opening for the STEM Academy from 2 to 4:30 p.m. Sept. 25.
A number of guest speakers, including Research Campus founder David Murdock, will be on hand during the event.
Guests will be invited inside to take tours of the building.
“During the tours, we are going to have students doing demonstrations,” district spokeswoman Ellen Boyd said. “We want people to actual see the things that are going on here.”
The grand opening will also include free refreshments and entertainment.
Contact reporter Sarah Campbell at 704-797-7683.
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