Innova recently created new science labs and an open plan collaborative learning space for Penwortham Priory Academy in Preston, Lancashire, the school where 13 year old Jamie Edwards became the youngest person in the world to create nuclear fusion.
Headteacher Matt Eastham explains how the open plan, flexible new space has changed the way staff and students think about science.
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New science facilities designed by a leading education interiors company have won the seal of approval – from the world’s youngest nuclear scientist.
Stockport based Innova Design Group, alongside Cassidy + Ashton Architects and contractors F Parkinson, have created state of the art science labs and a collaborative research zone at Penwortham Priory Academy in Preston, the school where 13 year old Jamie Edwards became the youngest person in the world to create nuclear fusion in 2014.
“STEM subjects are a real priority for us at Penwortham Priory –it’s an area where skills are in huge demand, so we want to fire students’ enthusiasm for them as much as we can.
“After our student Jamie Edwards became the youngest person in the world to create nuclear fusion here in the school labs, there was a real surge in interest in science amongst the pupils, and as part of the investment we were making in the school we wanted to create a learning space that really stimulated that interest.
“At Priory we like spaces that don’t dictate to teachers and students about the kind of learning that can take place. We encourage large learning spaces so staff and pupils can move around without being restricted by chairs and tables having to be in a particular way, or locked in to facing the front of a classroom. We wanted spaces pupils want to come and learn in, where they want to spend time in lunch times and breaks.
“Our existing labs were very outdated and traditional, with all the children sat in rows, which meant we were quite limited in terms of the practicals we could carry out.
“The new open plan learning space and labs Innova have helped us develop remove those limitations, which has given staff and students the ability to approach science in a whole new way.
From a teaching point of view, both the labs and the research hub have made a huge difference, allowing us to be much more collaborative in the way we plan and think about our lessons.
“The ability to move around easily and reconfigure furniture means we’re not stuck to one classroom with one teacher and one set of students. It’s allowed more freedom with the curriculum and multi-use of different spaces for different activities.
“From the students’ perspective, the labs have been inspirational. The way they look, the facilities and the space they offer has made them want to come to science in their own time, in breaks and lunch times and, like Jamie, try out extracurricular projects of their own. They enjoy their science lessons now much more than before.
“The space is designed so pupils can see into the prep room, see our prep technician at work and we’ve deliberately given the whole space a much more grown up feel to give students a taste of what life or work in science might be like beyond school. We hope they’ll be inspired to continue on into further study or work in science and technology focused industries once they leave Priory.
“I love coming down to science because there’s always something different to see, whether it’s projects the students are working on, the way the space is being used or how the animals are getting on in our specially designed pet zone.
“When parents come in on open evenings they’re completely gobsmacked by the new space – there’s nothing like it in any other school in the area, and lots of them have said ‘I wish science labs were like this when I was at school!”