STEM & STEAM

Monastery Converted to High School Science Wing with Planetarium

Marist High School, a Chicago-based Catholic school, transformed a former monastery into a high-tech science wing with a planetarium. The $15 million project was funded by two major donors and also by parents, alumni and friends of Marist. Renovating the 28,000 square foot former monastery increased the school’s learning space by 20 percent.

Marist High School, a Chicago-based Catholic school, transformed a former monastery into a high-tech science wing with a planetarium.

The new science wing was created to provide hands-on learning experiences and collaboration. "I want [students] to have their hands on something every day,” Science Curriculum Coordinator Carrie Spano told a local news reporter. “I want them to be able to learn by doing."

With that goal in mind, the building includes:

  • Ten new science labs dedicated to a specific branch of science including two bio labs, two chemistry labs and one AP lab;
  • An anatomy and physiology lab with a glass-walled space that looks like a hospital room;
  • Two physics labs with direct access to the courtyard for outdoor experimentation;
  • An observatory dome for astronomy studies;
  • A forensics crime lab;
  • An environmental science lab and green roof;
  • A collaboration center for teachers to meet and plan cross-curricular STEM lessons;
  • Mobile furniture that allows classes to change quickly from lecture to group work to lab experiments;
  • Student and teacher access to labs for independent research and experiments; and
  • A walkover path from the existing school hallway.

The planetarium was designed and installed by Spitz, the same company who installed the Adler Planetarium in downtown Chicago. In addition, students will have access to a 3D viewer created by Zygote that allows them to use a touch screen to explore human anatomy including the muscular or skeletal system.

Fox and Fox served as architect and construction was completed by Henry Brothers. The project was managed by Jones Lang LaSalle and landscaping along the exterior and in the courtyard was done by Quattrocki.

The science wing debuted on Aug. 23, the first day of school.

About the Author

Yvonne Marquez is senior editor of Spaces4Learning K-12. She can be reached at ymarquez@1105media.com.