A New Start for STEM

After months of construction, the Center for Science and Innovation held a grand opening with a ribbon cutting ceremony.


Students gather together and cut the ribbon, unveiling the new science center.

Hanna Masri and Madeleine Nicks

Stem is here to stay on campus. This September, Laguna finally unveiled its brand new Center for Science and Innovation, a collection of spaces dedicated to STEM fields, including biology, chemistry, and physics. 

The core principles of the new center are to revitalize classrooms, transform facilities to be centered around project-based learning, and ensure that curiosity and innovation remain at the heart of the science program. 

The Nakamura STEM Research and Innovation Lab is among the buildings, and a hub for all things robotics, 3-D printing, VR, and coding. 

Through thoroughly crafted, detailed interiors, the classrooms use space more efficiently and stylistically than ever before. 

The recently installed landscape of the Center for Science and Innovation (Brad Elliott)

The Jackson Lab, housing physics, math, and environmental science classes, underwent a similar refurbishment. 

The newly-constructed Gainey Biology and Chemistry Labs, feature interactive spaces where students can immerse themselves in the material. 

Behind the new biology classroom, an outdoor space was developed to give students a designated area to conduct open-air experiments.

“I really love the new science center buildings because they are the perfect modern, clean space to work whether that be on a lab project or just simply writing notes,” senior Catie Fristoe said. 

“The new spaces make me really excited to come to class and explore.” 

The ceremony, held on September 27, gathered together members of the Laguna community including alums and parents of alums.

Attendants of the ceremony gather around the Jackson Phys- ics Lab and listen to an address from Co-Heads of the Board of Trustees, Tom Tolles and Billie Fitzpatrick.

Student volunteers led tours around the spaces for visitors, giving a personal perspective on what it’s like to learn in the new parts of campus. 

“I have three classes [in the labs] and it’s incredible the resources we get… we have all the state-of-the-art machines… it’s incredible the experiments we can do,” senior Ben Rodgers said. 

During the opening, science instructors Zach Moore, Katie Pointer, Penny Pagles, Clara Svedlund, and John Pagano were stationed in their respective classrooms, giving guests an insight into how teaching has changed in the new rooms and setting up demonstrations. 

Science Department Chair Staci Richard led the event, giving an address and moving through the classrooms along with tour groups. 

“The Center for Science and Innovation gives our students every possible advantage in preparing them to succeed in tomorrow’s world,” Richard said. 

Additionally, the former chemistry classroom and lab were converted into a teacher workspace where members of the faculty without a “home” classroom now have offices where students can reach them for office hours or meetings. 

Sophomore Andreas McClintock demonstrates a recent robotics project for former Laguna parent Ron Ungerer.

The room features workspaces for students, including standing desks and a soundproof booth for online meetings. 

Co-chairs of the “Building on Strength” campaign, Elisabeth Fowler and Josh Connor, led the fundraising of the $6.5 million campaign. 

Their efforts spanned across several months, with major donors being the Nakamura and Gainey families, the Ann Jackson Family Foundation, The Mosher Foundation, and The Zegar Foundation. 

Senior George Nicks had the honor of cutting the ribbon while surrounded by a close community of students, teachers, parents, alumni, and donors, all coming together to support the STEM community and the future of Laguna Blanca School. 

“I’ve been working in Laguna STEM classes since I was in seventh grade and from where we were then soldering in a normal classroom, to now with multiple fully outfitted classrooms for everything under the sun is just game-changing… it changes everything,” George said.

Ed and Sue Birch of The Mosher Foundation, o-chair of Building on Strength Elisabeth Fowler, and EK instructor Mary Surber talk with juniors Katherine Ball and Zea Boyle. (Brad Elliott)

“I’m so glad to see that Laguna is finally giving the STEM field the attention and funding it deserves to help students reach their full potential.”