JAMES STEINKAMP PHOTOGRAPHY, John Clark, Joseph Cordogan, James Steinkamp Photography
The John C. Dunham STEM Partnership School at Aurora University, an innovative learning facility that serves 150 third- through eighth-grade students from four regional public school districts, is designed to address regional and national deficiencies in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education. The School and its new educational model result from the collaboration between University officials, school district leaders, teachers, nonprofits, local businesses, and legislators. It is staffed through a unique professional development strategy that engages teachers from the partner districts as faculty while they complete AU graduate coursework and become leaders in mathematics and science education. The building’s design includes eight grade-school classrooms, an open forum where classes can work together, and six labs that are shared by University and STEM school students. Classrooms feature generous natural light— which helped earn the building LEED Platinum sustainability points. Much of the piping, plumbing, insulation, and shelving is exposed so students can learn how they work. A rooftop garden and a greenhouse, as well as the school’s boiler room and data center, are enclosed with glass so that students can peer in. A prominent wind generator celebrates sustainability near the main entrance, and serves as both an educational and functional kinetic sculpture. The John C. Dunham STEM school received USGBC's LEED Platinum Award, American School & University's Gold Citation Award for Educational Interiors / Laboratories; and the 2017 Leading by Learning "Award of Distinction," the only project so honored this year by IASB / IASA/ IASBO with its highest award.