Alamo Heights Junior School STEM Building

Alamo Heights, Texas

A Texas school’s new STEM building provides hands-on teaching opportunities for students

The flourishing science program at Alamo Heights Junior School had outgrown its existing space when the school district decided to create a new 24,700-square-foot STEM building. The design process included extensive engagement with the high school and junior school science team, in addition to administrators.

The design for the eight new classrooms and two new labs allows students to use an outdoor courtyard as well as a large collaboration space on the building’s second floor to conduct experiments. Operable partitions open rooms for multiple grade levels to work together. Large, flexible spaces handle the growing number of students intrigued by the hands-on possibilities of science, technology, engineering and math.

The new facility also includes double-decker spaces for drop experiments that demonstrate the laws of gravity as well as wall panels that measure distances along the hallway. Almost every space has a writable, collaborative surface, and magnetic whiteboards line the hallways.

The building’s concrete floors and steel structure were left exposed to help students grasp the steps involved in putting a building together. Brick cladding was used for the foundational science learning spaces for sixth- and seventh-graders, connecting to the masonry architecture elsewhere on campus. Metal and fiber cement panels are used on the exterior of the two STEM labs’ innovative spaces, providing an updated look.

The design preserved mature oak trees, which provide shaded areas for the new building. The building’s east-west orientation and horizontal louvers shade south-facing windows, helping to cut energy costs in the Texas heat.

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