A portion of one of four murals at the IST designed by Noble Erickson in collaboration with Hutton Architecture Studio.

Hutton Architecture Studio is emerging as a leader in the incorporation of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) programs into schools.  Evidence shows that schools that incorporate STEM into their curriculum are a powerful tool for producing graduates with a deep knowledge and passion for science and math that translates into higher college graduation rates.

In order for our American students to keep up with the rest of the world in science and technology we need to reinvent how we teach these subjects.  In an existing school, these learning spaces and the activities within them should be visible to all students, rather than concealed.  Science room design should also take advantage of recent studies and provide adequate space for modern experimental techniques while maintaining safety.

We have been fortunate to design a few STEM school projects.  Our latest one, the Institute of Science and Technology for the Cherry Creek School District, is of special interest to me due to the incorporation of four large murals visually depicting the history of science.

I have long believed that one of the failures in K-12 science education is the depersonalization of science as a field of study.  In literature, fine art, or history it is inconceivable to me that students would learn those disciplines without also learning about the great artists and historical figures who made them possible.  Yet, because we like to think that science is completely objective, we tend to present science as an abstract discipline apart from the individuals who participated in its development.  In the process of removing actual people from the courses of study, we have made science boring.

The idea for the murals at the IST actually started with the District’s description of it as the future “MIT of the Rockies”.  Having spent a fair amount of time on the MIT campus, I vividly recalled the older buildings there with the names of science greats chiseled onto them.  I thought we should do the same inside our building, with the invitation that someday the names of a few IST graduates might find their way into this distinguished assembly.

When I first proposed the concept to Cherry Creek’s Director at IST, Richard Charles, I had no idea how far we would collectively go with it.  Now that we are poised to implement it, I am amazed at the collaborative process that transformed the static collection of a few names into a visually rich and intellectually stimulating series of four murals.  Each of the murals is 113′-8″ long and four feet tall, has a dominant theme, whether Biology, Chemistry, Physics, or Technology, and is related to the labs surrounding it.

We sincerely hope the murals will change how students and faculty alike view science: not as a deterministic and unemotional field, but rather as one of the greatest achievements of human thought, endeavor, and dedication.  Please visit our website for a glimpse!

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