Park School’s new science center
Educating the next generation of earth stewards
The wood-framed building features expanses of glass curtainwall.
Photos by Stephen Gabris
Park School’s Knopp-Hailpern Science Center, named for beloved faculty members Jacky Knopp and Raoul Hailpern, was officially inaugurated June 14.
The 13,000-square-feet structure has an industrial feel. Simple in shape, it is enhanced with thoughtful design elements like moveable classroom furniture, whiteboard screens, shades, and high-efficiency LED lights. It is a place of possibilities, for contemplation and consideration of solutions. Perhaps one day a second-grader, intrigued early on by lessons on air quality or saving butterflies, might grow up to be a world-class problem-solving scientist.
The wood-framed science building, featuring extensive use of glass curtainwall throughout, offers expansive views of the school’s thirty-four-acre campus in Snyder. It is also a gateway to green surrounds that include a pond and woods.
A plaza, featuring stone amphitheater seating for outdoor classes and events, leads to the center, which opens into the Gretchen & Gordon Gross ’49 Family Center for Campus Inquiry, a multiuse great hall. Among other functions, it houses the Park School collections, virtual and real, the latter including artifacts gathered and studied by students. The school is situated on the old Hamlin farm, where a still-standing stone cottage once housed the collection of fossils and other ephemera kept by Chauncey Hamlin, a key figure in the development of the Buffalo Museum of Science.
“This building really does connect us more fully to the outdoors,” says Jeremy Besch, head of school, noting that it underscores Park’s 107-year-old tradition of learning by doing, often outside. Early days at Park featured open-air classrooms. Today, students reprise similar lessons, learning from nature, but with the enhancement of modern technology. For example, adjacent to the science center is a stream, with a series of small cascades, that leads to a pond. The new system aerates the pond, reviving a body of water that had gone stagnant. Among many other hands-on projects, students are learning to adjust a computer-controlled water flow.
On the lower level, the Berardi Family Field Station enables easy access to the outdoors, with a glass overhead door. Drainage built into the floor facilitates clean-up of scientific explorations that get down and dirty. Earth Spirit Educational Services, Park’s thirty-year partner in environmental education, is using the building and campus as a new field site, developing programs for both Park students and the Western New York community. The school also plans to continue and increase collaborations with some Buffalo schools that lack easy access to the outdoors, building multiple visits into the school year where Park student-scientist-docents can facilitate access to all manner of scientific inquiry through the center. A scientist advisory panel works with faculty.
The science center is a product of RP Oakhill construction managers, Cannon Design architects, and Bayer Landscape Architecture, a Rochester firm (Bayer also oversaw the Martin House landscaping). Numerous students, faculty, alumni, and trustees contributed ideas and fine-tuning through years of planning. In use, it will change and grow like an element of nature; as Besch says, “We want to live with this, and, with advice from the local scientific community, build a list of things we want to try. That’s who we are and what we undertake here at Park, learning by doing.”