Students at Peekskill High School Embrace Collaboration and Discovery

The new STEAM Innovation Center at Peekskill High School brings together students in art, science, math, technology, and robotics, maximizing opportunities for collaboration and fabrication in a cutting-edge learning environment.

Peekskill City School District is a small, urban school district with a diverse population. The district sought to convert 11,500 sf of outdated art and technology classrooms and a storage space to create a facility that would increase the visibility of its STEAM programs and generate excitement about them, including the district’s very successful robotics team.

The dark, awkward space was located on the lower level of the high school, which is built into a hillside. The curved, wedge-shaped space posed a layout challenge, and the `view from the small windows, set high in the walls, was limited to the sky.

The design team at Mosaic Associates Architects turned the awkward wedge shape into an advantage by nesting the classrooms around a central ”Mixer” space that supports casual interaction, small group breakouts, large gatherings, and exhibits. The Mixer features custom word walls made up of inspirational words chosen by students and staff together.

Light was infused throughout the center by enlarging and adding windows, adding glass doors, and incorporating glass partition walls. The use of glass also makes the activities and exhibits in the STEAM Center visible to students and community members.

Walls covered in whiteboard material allow teachers and students to write, design, and share ideas in full view. The furniture is moveable and flexible, allowing spaces to be easily adapted to endless configurations. Magnetic walls and glass display cases supply exhibit space throughout.

The new facility has become popular with students and teachers. District Superintendent Dr. David Mauricio has high praise for the center and said, “The space has become a hub for collaboration and interdisciplinary projects. The Design Center is where a lot of the collaboration is happening. Breakout rooms allow students to work independently or one-on-one with teachers/peers. On nice days, we are able to open the STEAM Center’s doors and use the outdoor space to extend learning outside.”

The new center features a large robotics lab with a playing field. Dr. Mauricio shares that “Our robotics program has gained space, giving students more room to work and house tools and equipment. Previously, we were limited on the machinery we could fit in the classroom as many of these machines are quite big. Students who used to work elbow to elbow now have ample room to build and create. Thanks to this larger area, we even have space to add a playing field for our students to test run their machines and practice for competitions.”

The new center has met the goal of bringing the community into the school and increasing exposure to the STEAM program. “We recently held a ‘STEAM Open Studios’ session which was open to the public. The event allowed families to come in and see how students use the space. Projects from classes were on display and visitors were invited to interact with the students as they drove robots, created art and coded games,” said Dr. Mauricio.