For decades, choosing a career in a STEM field (Science Technology Engineering Mathematics) was not an option for women. Despite seeing Sally Ride enter space, Marie Curie win a Nobel Prize, and Jane Goodall conduct revolutionary wildlife research, the question remains: Why is the number of women in STEM still so low?
In an effort to change these numbers, the all-girls private school on the East Side, Lincoln School, constructed a state-of-the-art addition to their campus called The Lincoln School STEAM Hub for Girls, which opened its doors in May 2018. The new building focuses on the STEM fields, but with a purposeful twist. The additional “A” in the building’s acronym represents the subjects of art and architecture.
In the minds of most educators, these additions might not make sense, and fields like math and art might not have any reason to intersect. Lincoln School views it differently. “We talk about these points of intersection and how important they are in the real world,” explains Head of School Susan Fogarty. “We’ll talk about the creativity it takes for engineers to make designs for a project and the graphics skills that most technology professionals have. The real world is interdisciplinary and so are we.”
Fogarty says that people wrongly assume that the reason the number of women in STEM is so low is because young girls simply aren’t interested. “It’s not an issue of interest, it’s an issue of access,” she says. “For decades, these fields have been inaccessible to young girls and that inaccessibility has been internalized in their education. Our goal at Lincoln School is to provide them with every opportunity so that they know all the options available to them.”
In the creation of the STEAM Hub, Lincoln School partnered with Lerner Ladds Bartels Architects. The group was asked to design a building that operated at the intersection of tradition and innovation, just like the rest of their school. Then, in December, LLB Architects won an Honor Award from the Rhode Island Chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) for their work on the project.
Kathleen Bartels, principal architect, describes the construction: “We renovated the entire science wing, reorganizing the chemistry and physics classrooms for more flexibility, establishing a central student commons and work space, and creating glass-enclosed study rooms.” A 2,000-square-foot art gallery was also created to show of student art as well as work from visiting artists. “The awards are nice,” says Bartels, “but the best reward has been the positive feedback from teachers and students that it’s a great place to teach and learn.”
Fogarty happily shares that the student response has been overwhelming. “The feedback we get most often is that students can’t help but be inspired when they enter the new space.”