A New Era of Science Education

Days before the start of the 2019–2020 school year, St. Mark’s celebrated the culmination of the Science Center Project and more than five years of planning and construction. On August 21, 2019, members of the community, including donors, Trustees, parents, alumni, faculty, and staff gathered for a ceremony to rededicate the completely renovated McDermott-Green Science Building. Mary McDermott Cook, the daughter of Margaret and Eugene McDermott, joined Melinda and Steve Winn ’64, Eugene McDermott Headmaster David Dini, Board of Trustees President Clark Hunt ’83, Vice President Kathy Crow, and Stephen M. Seay ’68 Science Department Chair Fletcher Carron, in cutting the ribbon from the Winn Science Center into the McDermott-Green Science Building. The two buildings are now joined through a two-story glass connector, uniting 75,000 square feet of science education facilities.

“We could not be more excited about today and all that it represents,” said David Dini. “The original McDermott-Green Mathematics & Science Quadrangle was a transformational milestone for our School, and today we link hands across the generations, celebrating where we have been and where we are going.”

Clark Hunt ’83 thanked the innumerable individuals who contributed to the Science Center Project, from faculty and staff to donors and volunteers. “Like most great things at St. Mark’s, this state-of-the-art complex would not have been possible without a team effort from so many people who care deeply about St. Mark's. Of course, none of today's festivities would be possible without the visionary leadership of some of St. Mark's most ardent supporters, the McDermotts and the Greens.”

Clark then introduced Mary McDermott Cook, a longtime supporter of the School and member of the Board from 2004–2007. “I can’t tell the Winn family how incredibly grateful I am. Daddy recognized the importance of STEM and it’s an honor to have the Winn name now connected to the McDermott’s and the Green’s.” Mary also brought a portrait of her late father to be displayed in the Eugene McDermott Headmaster’s Office.

Days after the rededication, the 2019–2020 school year got underway. As Fletcher Carron noted, "The first week in the renovated McDermott-Green Science Building was a hit. The updated labs are bright, clean, and spacious, and with more of them than before, teachers have increased flexibility to plan lab activities and set up demonstrations. Students were excited to finally get inside the building, and the new study rooms and public areas have been very popular for collaborative work."

The 25,000 square-foot McDermott-Green Science Building includes nine renovated labs, a conference room, two student study rooms, eight offices, and a faculty lounge. As the school year got underway, students were quick to take advantage of the spacious study areas in the McDermott-Green lobby, featuring three 275-gallon aquariums, as well as the couches and tables in the glass connectors.

“This new space is a breath of fresh air,” said John Mead, Eugene McDermott Mastering Teaching Chair in Science. “The space and spirit of the original building are still here but the renovation added modern technology as well as a brighter, more student-centric classroom space. And the connection to the Winn Science Center affords my middle schoolers a chance to utilize spaces like the biotech lab, the Arthur Douglas Greenhouse, the planetarium, and the Addy Family Maker Space.”

The Science Center Project encompassed the construction of the Winn Science Center, completed in January 2019, and the renovation of the McDermott-Green Science Building, completed in August 2019. A dedicated team of Trustees and volunteers worked closely with Robert A.M. Stern Architects and the Beck Group to make this project a reality. In all, 60 families contributed $43 million to fund the project prior to the groundbreaking in May 2017, led by a seed gift of $10 million from the Winn Family Foundation.

While construction has concluded, the teachers and students are just starting to realize the full potential of these buildings. Matt Dillon, Lower School Science Coordinator, is delivering an updated science curriculum to the youngest Marksmen. Stewart Mayer arrived on campus last month and is already introducing exciting new projects and possibilities as the School's first Maker Space Director. As Dr. Steve Balog dives deeper into the planetarium's software, new opportunities for cross-departmental lessons continue to emerge. And, outside of the sciences, the School has already used the spacious lecture hall to host faculty and class meetings. In the coming years, teachers across campus will find new and exciting ways that these facilities can help ignite the curiosity of their students and forward the mission of St. Mark's.
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