Mundelein High School District 120 celebrates homecoming weekend with unveiling of “crown jewel” designed to prepare students for STEM careers
[Mundelein, IL] – “It makes you want to come back to school,” said US Congressional Representative Robert Dold of Mundelein High School. The remark was made at the September 10 ribbon cutting ceremony for the school’s science and classroom expansion.
Over 125 people including students, teachers, community members, board members, and administrators gathered to celebrate completion of the 55,000-square-foot structure designed by Legat Architects and built by IHC Construction Company.
Mundelein High School District 120 held the event in conjunction with its homecoming to express appreciation to former students and to involve them in a new chapter in technology, applied science, and engineering.
Dr. Kevin Myers, MHS District 120 Superintendent, served as master of ceremonies. “Instead of just teaching science, our teachers will be encouraging students to do science,” he said. “Many of the activities the students are doing in these rooms are what we did in college.”
“The young people who will go through this school will experience world-class facilities,” added Dold. “What’s going on right here is best practices that are going to create more opportunities for our young people today.”
Village of Mundelein Mayor Pro-Tem Ray Semple called the addition the village’s “crown jewel.” He said, “The state-of-the-art STEM addition helps to position Mundelein as a destination with top-rated schools and advanced educational opportunities.”
Joanne Anderson, Board of Education President, echoed her fellow speakers’ appreciation toward the community for supporting a “new building giving our staff the opportunity to work with outside businesspeople and to think outside the box to create a curriculum that is most meaningful for our students.”
The addition, which overcame the challenge of building inside an existing courtyard while school was in session, marks the latest success stemming from a 46-year relationship between District 120 and Legat. “This isn’t just about science classrooms or math classrooms,” said Patrick Brosnan, President/CEO of Legat. “It’s about flexible classrooms that integrate learning and break down barriers between subjects. You’ll see spaces that are flexible and that encourage creativity and critical thinking.”
State Representative Carol Sente applauded the district’s efforts to meet the demand for STEM careers, which are growing at double the rate of non-STEM careers. She said, “Having a high school to devote the energy to grow students’ interests in STEM careers and engaging the manufacturing community to help produce these qualified individuals is a wonderful undertaking here in Lake County.”
After the ceremonial ribbon cutting by the monumental staircase, guests explored the addition. Student and teacher representatives answered questions in key spaces.
One new lab enables MHS to launch a Project Lead the Way (PLTW) pre-engineering program. It includes lab stations around the perimeter and, in the middle, movable tables for collaboration and group projects. Senior McKenzie Theis explained classes in the PLTW Lab will range from traditional math-and science-based courses to computer science classes in which students design their own apps.
A large window in the PLTW Lab looks into the adjacent STEM Lab, in which students will pursue a variety of projects. One highlight of the STEM Lab is the “Nano Nook” and its scanning electron microscope that enables students to view objects at 130,000 times their actual size. The addition also allows MHS to host STEM programs for elementary school students at feeder districts. It even has an optional females-only class based on research about the different ways that female students learn.
In the Business Incubator, students will identify a problem and develop a solution that benefits the entire community. Senior Yaxeni Sanchez is working on a parking app with her group. Each day, the teachers present what students need to work on for their business. The group then works at small tables where they can project their Chromebooks onto screens. The classes will soon welcome mentors from local businesses. The Business Incubator also includes two multimedia-rich conference rooms for presentations or meetings.
In a second floor classroom, Alana Goodson, senior, told visitors about MHS’s AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) program. She said, “It’s a college readiness program that encourages critical thinking and helps students challenge themselves in different ways.” The class is now working on college applications. Students pose questions in subjects that are challenging them. They are then paired with peers who can help.
Movable glass partitions separate the classrooms from break-out areas. These partitions can be fully opened to create a larger classroom space. When the partitions are closed, smaller groups can gather in the break-out areas without disruption. The break-out spaces can also open up to create a large gathering space for event receptions.
Senior Anna Balla hosted the Anatomy Lab, one of six new labs on the third floor. The labs include mobile tables, sinks, fume hoods, storage, and interactive smartboards. Some third floor labs also open to an “experiment balcony” where students can evaluate their projects. Balla’s Environmental Science class, for instance, used the balcony to test solar cookers built from household materials.
Since completion of the addition, District 120 has already noted several cases of families moving into district boundaries because of the addition.
“People are going to come from all around,” said Dold, “because they want better opportunities for their children.”
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