Exploratory Labs: Paving the Way for Experiential Learning

In support of Weymouth’s mission to engage and empower students through interdisciplinary, project-based learning, the educational program for the new Chapman Middle School is centered around unique “exploratories”—introductory classes to elective tracks that focus on modern, STEAM-driven paths in career technical education.

Located at the threshold between the school’s academic wings and central hub for student activity, the exploratory labs bridge the transition from shared public space to academic zones. The labs are housed within three distinct tower-like, top-lit structures, or pods, that utilize their unique and expressive architectural forms to represent the flexible and collaborative nature of the interior program spaces. Each positioned at the entrance to one of the three academic wings extending off the cafeteria, the exploratory labs shape the organic layout of this central space. Distinct cladding materials define a unique identity for each space: a metal pod, a wood pod, and a glass pod.

Culinary Lab

Chapman Middle School’s culinary lab occupies the first floor of the metal pod and provides a unique opportunity for students to incorporate cooking, cultural awareness, and nutrition in their curriculum at the middle school level. The spacious layout of the lab positions a teaching room for lecture-based learning adjacent to cooking stations for hands-on lessons.

Notable features:

  • Flexible classroom furniture for lecture-based lessons on culinary practices, world food cultures and healthy nutrition
  • Universally designed cooking stations used for hands-on lessons include 4-burner stoves, convection ovens, char broilers and microwaves
  • Mobile teaching demonstration station with cooktop induction units
  • Large openings to convenient transportation of materials
  • Solid surface counters and washable walls and ceilings for simplified maintenance
Expeditionary Learning Lab

Located directly above the culinary lab, the expeditionary learning lab provides a flexible learning space geared towards self-directed, collaborative and project-based activities. Varied seating and table types can be re-arranged to outfit the space for a wide range of lessons from presentations, to class discussions, to small group projects.

Notable features:

  • Designated presentation space and teaching wall with large LCD monitor
  • Small group collaboration spaces with individual touch screen monitors
  • Flexible and varied furniture for a variety of hands-on activities including research, writing, reading, math and science
Theater Arts Classroom

To accommodate Weymouth’s robust theater programs, the first floor of the wood pod provides teaching space outside of the auditorium and a black box theater for students to study, rehearse and put on small-scale performances. This flexible space is not only a valuable resource for the emerging middle school theater program, but also for the high school theater program and local drama groups. Co-locating theater arts and the broadcasting lab within the same pod enables the programs to share a control center.

Notable features:

  • An overhead tension wire grid – a fall-safe technical level space where students learn the behind-the-scenes ins and outs of theatrical lighting and rigging
  • Motorized blackout shades block any light penetrating the space for Blackbox performances and let light in during lessons and rehearsals
  • Moveable furniture in the performance room can be used for audiences, lectures or removed entirely
Broadcast Lab

The broadcast lab overlooks the theater arts space below and offers students state-of-the-art equipment and spaces to explore the technical aspects of video and audio production. The lab will also be utilized for student organizations and a large after-school program.

Notable features:

  • State-of-the-art broadcasting equipment including a soundproof control center, recording studio with green screen and mounted LED studio light fixtures
  • Windows from the control center to both the adjacent recording studio and to the theater arts space below to allow both programs to utilize the high-tech control and recording equipment
  • Ability to broadcast throughout the school or town-wide
Media Center

Chapman Middle School’s new media center, which resides on the first level of the glass pod, introduces contemporary design elements typically seen in higher education spaces without compromising the function of a traditional school library. A double-height open plan layout combined with tall openings in the frosted resin cladding establish a visual connection between the media center and the Town Square, while a variety of seating types and breakout spaces make the space fully accessible.

Notable features:

  • Flexible and varied seating conducive to a wide variety of learning styles
  • Designated spaces for casual study, small group learning, and large group meetings
  • Operable glass wall enables the meeting room to open up into the flexible learning space for larger assemblies
  • Circulation desk centrally located to monitor media center activity
  • Located near the main entrance for after-hours community use
  • Skylights and tall openings introduce daylight into this space at the heart of the school

Overlooking the media center below, the makerspace lab encourages collaborative, hands-on learning as students begin to explore the engineering, design and fabrication process. Centered around student discovery, the flexible makerspace accommodates a wide range of large-scale projects and fosters teamwork among students.

Notable features:

  • Robotics focused equipment
  • Flexible work benches with durable tabletops for a wide variety of projects
  • Spray paint booth, vent booth for soldering, 3D printers, a plotter and laser cutter
  • A built-in storage wall for student projects, raw materials, parts, and kits