When students at the Walker School in Marietta come back to class Thursday, they will come back to a brand-new science building.
Head of school Jack Hall spoke to the MDJ Sunday after a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the three-story, 37,000-square-foot Warren Science and Technology Building, named for a family of current and former Walker students.
He said the project has been in the works for four and a half years and came about after the school raised just over $10 million in two years through its “Wonder of We” campaign. He said over $250,000 of that money came from Walker faculty and staff.
“It’s just so exciting to think about what’s going to happen in there with the students and the teachers,” Hall said. “A lot of the programs that were in the existing building will move here, but what this building does is allow for the expansion of new programs, particularly from a robotics and engineering and innovation standpoint. So much is changing in front of our eyes. It’s exciting what this new space will do.”
After the ribbon was cut, parents, alumni and students explored the building’s halls and classrooms, where teachers were waiting to show off the new technology.
The building was literally packed to the rooftop with scientific equipment. Part of the roof consists of greenery, which absorbs water and helps regulate the buildings temperature. That means lower energy costs and less of an impact on the environment, said biology and environmental science teacher Dave Harding.
Harding spoke to the MDJ from his rooftop classroom, which includes rows of flowers and vegetables that students can use to study their anatomy and genetics.
“We’ll identify specific genes found on one plant to determine what other type of plant crossed over with it, what was the parental plant it originated from,” Harding said.
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Nearby, in her classroom, science department head Emily Adams was showing a collection of model hominid skulls to a group of parents.
Adams said her favorite addition is a separate lab space attached to her classroom for students who are part of Walker’s public health con-centration. That program allows students to partner with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, perform their own public health re-search and submit it for publication in scientific journals.
Previous students have done research including studying a gene asso-ciated with nearsightedness, finding ways to reduce stress in high school students, educating adolescent asthmatics about their triggers and modeling 3D shape of protein associated with an eye disorder.
The new space will allow the next batch of public health students an area to run their experiments without being disturbed by others, Ad-ams said.
“In real science labs, work runs for hours or for days sometimes, and you need to leave projects up,” she said. “In a traditional classroom en-vironment like we previously had, we had other classes and other stu-dents constantly coming in and out, so they had to tear down their equipment and set it back up, and this space is just for them.”
One of the highlights for the students on the tour was the upper school robotics lab, where Shawn Kennerson, who teacher robotics, computer science and math and coaches the robotics team, was show-ing off one of the student-built robots designed to do tasks like climb up steps, flip switches and manipulate objects. Walker students compete against teams from other schools in competitions around the country.
Kennerson said he has gotten a lot of positive feedback from the stu-dents who came to see the lab.
“It’s terrific because the kids are really excited about the space,” he said. “We have a lot more space for them to work in, to spread out, a lot of space for them to store things and their parts, and it’s just a wonder-ful place to work in because of the natural lighting, the availability of the technology, it’s terrific for them. They’re really excited about it.”