Anatolia College Center for STEM Education was established in 2012. Since then its innovative approach includes a great number of activities, projects, science fairs, outreach programs and summer programs. Most Anatolia College STEM activities have been documented as papers in International Conferences held both in Greece and abroad and its students participate in competitions such as F1 in Schools, School Lab, First Lego League, ESA Can Sat etc. All STEM activities are run by qualified and trained teaching staff in an innovative environment. In 2016 the Anatolia College STEM Innovation Isle was created. It includes the Fabrication Lab, aiming to promote innovation and inventiveness by applying the principles of STEM and Robotics and, the Center for Green Education that aspires to cultivate the environmental awareness of tomorrow’s citizens.
Because Anatolia is a central force of educational innovation in Greece, it embraced the challenge to adapt its educational approach to meet the ever-changing needs of the 21st Century and thus constructed the new, stand-alone building on the campus of Anatolia College, Anna Papageorgiou STEM Center, dedicated to the learning of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). The skills required to succeed today call for an investment in scientific teaching. Teaching the process of science means going beyond the content to help students understand how we know what we know and giving them the tools they need to think scientifically.
Despite the unique circumstances caused by the pandemic, the Center was completed on schedule and opened its doors on September 14, 2020.
The sciences have never been taught and learned with more eagerness and enthusiasm than in the sunlit building of the Anna Papageorgiou STEM Center. In its three labs, as well as in the multi-purpose room, experiential learning is facilitated and creative thinking as well as problem solving are encouraged. The three labs are used for chemistry, biology and physics activities for the Gymnasium students. Further, they have accommodated kindergarten and elementary students for STEM related activities, robotics and demonstrations during the school year.
During the last two years, Anatolia College-STEM office is part of the Erasmus project GREEN EDU- Green Education for a Sustainable future -PROJ. Nº 2019-1-PL01- KA201-065695. Green education can act as a vehicle to inspire the next generation of students to pursue a science career. Furthermore, empowering youth to create a sustainable future is critical in the process of preserving the planet and in educating future responsible citizens. With a green education curriculum a science subject which may be considered abstract is put into a familiar context, relevant to everyday life of the students. Green education connects abstract science concepts to real world technologies that are solving environmental challenges. Novel fields such as green chemistry, sustainable engineering and robotics and green biotechnology can be implemented into classroom teaching under the umbrella of green education. Therefore, through this project relevant lesson plans are created and tested in elementary classrooms offering students the opportunity to be educated accordingly through fun and hands-on activities.
In the past year, the Anatolia College-STEM office also became partner in the MiniOpenLabs (Erasmus+ project KA2 Cooperation for innovation and the exchange of good practices project, KA201 – Strategic Partnerships for school education, reference 020-1-ES01-KA201-082706). The main goal of the MiniOpenLabs project is to set-up and test an open community and hands-on approach to Sustainable Development and STEM Education of children (6-12 years old), comprising, among others, small laboratories (that will be formed in the multi-purpose room) open to the local community, where children under the guidance of teachers or other educators (including parents), may engage in STEM-based projects on sustainable development.
The Center exemplifies the sensitivity to environmental impact and energy efficiencies achieved by the use of modern architectural planning with the incorporation of bioclimatic designs, renewable energies and the focus on zero emissions. This process of sustainability becomes a visible learning tool for teachers and students with the installation of a digital information system that measures real-time energy production and consumption.
The attention to the environment and sustainable energy coupled with our focus on experiential learning, talent development, social responsibility and excellence represent the key components of Anatolia’s educational model. The Anna Papageorgiou STEM Center facilitates the employment of modern educational methods that create a holistic synthesis between pedagogy and environment. The purpose of the STEM program at Anatolia College is to develop student skills and competences as a driver of innovation and the cultivation of creativity and critical thinking.
Due to the pandemic, the new building currently hosts laboratories for Gymnasium students, housing the engineering and robotics programs. Our plan, however, is for the Center’s facilities to be used by all of Anatolia’s students, as well as service the needs of our Center for Talented Youth (CTY) Greece program. Anatolia will also benefit by vastly expanding its already flourishing STEM programs and support the collaboration with external organizations introducing year long programs to students of the wider community. Furthermore, Anatolia will further expand its positive impact and reach to the students of the greater community with the intent to expose them to new technologies and build an appreciation for the benefits of environmentally friendly architecture and energy sustainability through conversation.
Upon recording and evaluating the environmental and anthropogenic factors that affect the structure and operation of the space created by the construction of the Anna Papageorgiou STEM Center, the team of landscape architects proceeded to the design of its gardens. Taking into account the existing plantings of the wider campus, as well as its value as an ecological habitat, they made sure to incorporate the design smoothly. The STEM gardens’ philosophy is based on the treatment of rainwater as a source of life and not as waste, as well as on the reduction of the effects of urbanization on the natural water cycle.
Planting of the gardens includes 28 different plants, as well as two trees of special ornamental value. The plants share a Mediterranean character, aroma in foliage and flower, require minimum irrigation and fertilization and are ideal for educational purposes. Finally, it is worth noting that both the east and west rain gardens of the new building play both a functional, but also educational role, while the four seating areas will serve the visitors of the building. The overall intervention of landscape architecture is consistent both with the simplicity, but also with the innovation of the architectural solution of the building itself, as well as with its ecological identity.