by Larry Austin
No one is happier about the new addition to Grand Island High School than the teachers who will teach in it.
The new science, technology, engineering and mathematics building, or STEM wing, is getting rave reviews just as shovels enter the ground for its construction. At a ground-breaking ceremony July 26 for the Grand Island Central School District's $55 million capital project, teachers and architects described the addition as a first of its kind.
Kim Williams, a senior associate with Cannon Design, designers of the building, said during the ground-breaking ceremony that the new STEM wing will be a model for future school buildings in the state.
"And right where we stand, a unique part of this project is that STEM addition that's going right on the front lawn of this campus that will change the image of this building. And, moreover, it sets a precedent in New York state for what science, math, engineering and technology looks like in a facility, what the spaces look like, what the equipment is that is needed," Williams said. "And it all grew out of the vision and the passion of the people of Grand Island, and we couldn't be more proud to be a part of it."
GIHS technology teachers Carl Koppmann and Eric Cohoon said the STEM concept incorporates all four disciplines into one building.
"It's what we're going to do. It's what we've been doing. We do it every day. Now we're just getting the proper facility to do it in," Koppmann said.
"There's a big area in the center of this thing that's going to be like a collaborative area. And they haven't done that anywhere else. What we're hoping is that it kind of changes the face of technology, where it used to be wood shops and metal shops, and now it's a little bit more advanced with computer-aided design and things like that," Koppmann said.
"We're going to have a lot more open, collaborative space. It's going to be fantastic. It's the space we've been dreaming about for years," Koppmann said.
The construction project itself will provide its own teachable moments. Cohoon said the current tech classrooms face the construction, so students can look out their classroom windows and see their new building going up.
"We're going to bring the kids out probably and take little field trips outside and show them what's going on and explain it, the whole process, because this technology, this is what we teach," Cohoon said. "Now they can actually see it."
"A learning classroom right in front of us. We'll get to see it every day," Koppmann added.
The teachers said the tech wing is slated to be ready by the 2014-15 school year and will present a new face for GIHS.
"We thought they would maybe throw it in the back of the building," Koppmann said of the STEM wing. "But when they told us it was going on the front lawn, we knew it was going to be a game-changer because that's the district saying we're proud of what technology is and we're going to showcase it on the front lawn. It's fantastic."
Koppmann said the teachers had a hand in every step of the planning process.
"We've been involved with the design process from the beginning," Koppmann said. "We can already tell where the rooms are going to be. That vision is there."
"We saw the plans on paper, but this is real now," Cohoon said of the ground-breaking. "You can see it."
"It was very nice for the district to include us in the design and get our input," Cohoon added, "To listen to us."