First STEAM middle school in SC wins international design award

First STEAM middle school in SC wins international design award

From the Greenville News

Article by Nathaniel Cary; photos by Mykal McEldowney

Fisher Middle School

Classroom spaces at Dr. Phinnize J. Fisher Middle School are set up to be flexible, providing options for teachers to use team and project learning programs,

When Greenville County Schools opened Dr. Phinnize J. Fisher Middle School in Greenville in August 2014, the district knew they’d created something new and different, possibly even unique in the United States.

It was a middle school designed around a curriculum. Every facet of the school — from color-coded exposed pipes to glass enclosed communications and power panels to showcase the building’s technology to its bio-retention pond to retain storm water and to remove harmful hydrocarbons — everything was built with instruction in mind.

Now, the school has been recognized with an international award for its design.

Fisher Middle School received the 2015 Council of Educational Facility Planners International (CEFPI) James D. MacConnell Award during the CEFPI Annual Conference in San Diego, California, on Sunday, Oct. 25.

The award recognizes the comprehensive planning process that results in educational facilities that serve the community, enhance education and meet multiple goals.  The school was selected from four finalists from across the nation.  The school is the first in South Carolina to receive the award.

It was presented to representatives from the school district and the architectural firm McMillian Pazdan Smith, which was part of the team that designed the school.

Fisher is the first STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) middle school in the state.

Plans for the school launched in 2011 with initial concept meetings with Clemson University to place a STEM-focused middle school in Greenville.

A team assembled to plan the curriculum, design, technology and energy-efficiency. That team included school district representatives, education architecture firm Fielding Nair International and Greenville-based architectural firm McMillan Pazdan Smith.

The $30-million school was split into learning communities with flexible spaces for each separate community. Classrooms, or design labs, have movable walls and large windows to let in sunlight. Most have garage-style doors that roll up and down and can open classrooms into larger collaborative spaces.

A ground-level innovation lab is large enough to drive a car into from Clemson’s nearby International Center for Automotive Research, where students can learn hands-on.

Student project galleries line the hallway walls. A fine arts wing puts the “A” for Arts in STEAM. Even the lighting brightens and dims automatically based on the amount of sunlight available.

Fisher Middle was previously awarded a rating of three Green Globes through the Green Globe certification process that encourages facility design to conserve energy, reduce water consumption, and promote responsible use of materials.

It was named for retired GCSD Superintendent Phinnize Fisher and dedicated to her in November 2014. It opened with sixth grade and added seventh grade this fall. It will add eighth grade next fall.

Image above: the media center inside Fisher Middle School