Allen ISD—Allen STEAM Center
Architect: VLK Architects
This innovative facility solved community needs and enrollment growth while looking to the horizon for determining future student interests and skills. A total shift in culture occurred with an explosion of STEAM interest across the district. Inspired by industries and growing career needs, the facility serves high school students and provides studios for K-8th grade experiential learning. The rich site provides trails, wetland zone, and natural creek, all expected daily learning environments.
Contemplation of students, staff and business leaders yielded the concept for this STEAM Center (serving all students in the district). Inspired by industries and growing career needs, the facility serves high school students and provides experiential learning for K-8th grade. The rich site provides trails, wetland zone, and natural creek, all expected daily learning environments. One feature is the 250-seat Ellipse Theater with a tall 16 feet screen greeting students for experiential learning.
The community made an investment in student choice as course options, career passions, and personal learning interests are being supported and nurtured. Involvement of 25 businesses experienced the benefits and provided impact to over 1000 students in the first year. While creating a rich outdoor learning environment, the site was kept natural which contributes to maintenance and operations savings. Water collection, retention, and runoff provide value as well as teaching tools.
Commitment to embrace inspirational opportunities while creating cohesion with the rich outdoor natural environment was paramount. Direct outdoor access to the living laboratory for exploring unique habitats housed in the pond, around the pavilion, along the trails, and throughout the site is provided. Student ambassadors educate community visitors on numerous aspects including bio swales, rain chains, erosion, sediment filtration, and a catchment basin as the site works with the natural creek.
An explosion of interest resulted with the STEAM opportunities of this facility. Businesses are involved in the learning process like never before with Makerspace Challenges and fruitful partnerships. Two tree-lined boardwalks funnel visitors to either the Ellipse Theater (serving as entry to K-8th grade experiential learning) or to the High School entrance. Community expectations of a one high school district provided purpose for an innovative solution to serve all students in the district.
Curating was instrumental for vision. Administration and architects toured schools and Microsoft in the Seattle area, and museums in Texas yielding inspiration as nothing like this campus existed in Texas. Dialogue in a powerful charrette with community and students established the concept, and students branded each learning space. This innovative facility solved community needs and enrollment growth while looking to the horizon for determining future student interests.
A total shift in culture occurred with an explosion of STEAM interest. Autonomy and ownership resulted from students’ abilities to apply an interconnected approach exploring STEAM content, learning outdoors, and working in Collaboration Coves and Makerspace workshops to design products that evidence learning aligned with the district’s vision to “cultivate innovation.” Now, learning takes advantage of the interplay of skills with exclusive partnerships like one with the Perot Museum for K-12.
Star of Distinction Category Winner