A Future Science Learning Center

HISTORY: How was this priority identified?

At the "Transitions Group" retreat in December of 2004, the creation of a new Science Learning Center for students was established as a high priority for the sciences. We imagined a new center with a staff member who could be the "Russ Petricka (at Carleton's Math Skills Center) for the sciences." The possibility of coordinating and enhancing tutor and prefect programs and training was also raised. At the December 2004 retreat, a subgroup formed to work on this issue. This group became the Science Resource Committee:

A view from outside Olin Hall

  • Bill Titus (Physics & Astronomy)
  • Trish Ferrett (Chemistry, CISMI)
  • Cam Davidson (Geology)
  • Gary Wagenbach (Biology)
  • Will Hollingsworth (Chemistry)
  • Sam Patterson (Math)
  • Liz Ciner (Associate Dean)
  • Mark Gleason (Corporate & Foundation Relations)

In the meantime, the college's interest in the Northfield Middle School as a possible center for the arts introduced the potential for a College cinema in that space, thereby freeing Olin 149 from serving that function. The Dean of the College Office urged the sciences to rethink the uses of Olin 149. This might include the design of a technology-rich and pedagogically flexible classroom large enough to accommodate large introductory science courses. It was starting to become possible to think in real terms about new space.

A portion of the Science Resource Committee sponsored a large faculty/staff meeting in Febrary 2005 to begin thinking about what kinds of new physical resources are needed in the sciences. This meeting was facilitated by Trish Ferrett, Bill Titus, and Cam Davidson. Faculty and staff worked at small tables, and discussion notes were taken at each table. The Science Resource Committee met again in spring 2005 to identify, from the February meeting notes, the most pressing priorities that appeared to enjoy consensus:

  • A Science Learning Center for students (confirming the sense from the "Transitions Group")
  • A "community commons" for the sciences
  • Shared space for integrative tools (computation, modeling, visualization, instrumentation)

Trish Ferrett and Susan Singer had a conversation in spring 2006 with Deans Scott Bierman and John Ramsay. Scott and John affirmed the merit of developing these ideas further.

Next Steps

The Dean of the College Office is planning to appoint a planning committee in 2006-07 to further develop the concepts of what a "science learning center", "community commons", and "shared space for integrative tools" really mean. Once having established a concrete vision, this group can identify resources to accomplish these things. The group will also explore the possibility of phasing in elements of the science learning center.