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McHenry County College’s New Science Center Enhances Learning for All Students

Monday, October 1, 2018   (0 Comments)
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McHenry County College’s newest addition, the 40,800 square-foot, two-story, state-of-the-art Liebman Science Center opened for classes on Aug. 20, leading the way for future careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

The classroom and lab expansion aims to better prepare students with the advanced knowledge and skills needed to be successful. The community’s future nurses, scientists, astronomers, occupational and physical therapists, engineers, firefighters, EMTs, and more professionals will have access to the latest technology and best learning environment possible.

With 22,000 square feet of classroom and lab space on the college’s Crystal Lake campus, features include a cadaver lab, a student resource lab, two lecture halls, a planetarium, and two prep rooms. The Center will support existing science and healthcare programs, including biology, chemistry, earth science, physics, pre-engineering, nursing, health information technology, and patient care technician. A unique feature on the planetarium’s exterior window is a Hubble telescope image depicting one of the oldest documented star formations in deep space.

Science teachers throughout McHenry County will have new and innovative programs that will inspire their own Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) students. The college will launch a speaker series this fall and will feature topics such as molecular gastronomy, astronomy, broadcasting of weather, and paleontology.

The $17 million center is funded through a combination of private donations, college funds and student fees. A $5 million donation from Charles Liebman and Family kick-started the fundraising campaign, which is nearing its $7 million fundraising goal.

MCC president Clint Gabbard, Ph.D. said the new, expanded space will serve the learning needs of students much more effectively than the previous space.

“Ultimately, this project will positively impact the level of success that our students achieve in the classroom, which directly supports our mission,” he said.

Science Faculty Thrilled with New Classrooms, Labs

Biology instructor Bev Dow, Ph.D. said she is thrilled with the new laboratory space, because it will allow instructors to expand the learning experiences for students.

“New laboratory space will enhance our instruction by increasing accessibility for all students and facilitating the use of state-of-the-art technology and teaching methods,” Dow said. She added that when the former labs were built, “no one imagined that college students would amplify DNA in a freshman biology lab 40 years later.”

“It’s a breath of fresh air,” said biology instructor Marla Garrison. “It opens up the opportunity for introducing more relevant curriculum,” she said. “For example, with our new cadaver lab, when teaching Anatomy and Physiology, we use cadavers instead of cats. This allows students to study human form and function on human beings. This prepares students better for careers in science and the medical field.”

To share his passion for astronomy with the community, MCC’s earth science instructor and resident meteorologist Paul Hamill plans to host regular presentations and astronomical viewings in the college’s state-of-the-art planetarium for student groups from local districts.

“I am no longer limited to showing a still image or a video to represent celestial objects in space during class time,” Hamill said. “I have the ability to display the solar system live instead of using a static image. My ultimate goal is to have every single student in McHenry County visit our college and planetarium before they become the age of a typical college freshman.”

Green Building: Pursuing LEED Silver Status

The College demonstrates its commitment to sustainability by pursuing a LEED Silver status with the Liebman Science Center, the college’s first LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) building. The center is built with consistent and credible green building standards, showing economic, environmental, and health benefits associated with a green building. The building includes an innovative design that has measurable water efficiency, indoor air quality and energy savings with overall lower maintenance costs. For example, the center features water- saving plumbing fixtures that have the capacity for saving up to 30 percent water compared to standard fixtures.

In addition to the water-saving fixtures, the center has other sustainable features:

  • Bicycle rack to encourage bike riders coming to campus
  • Dedicated parking spaces for low-emitting vehicles
  • Charging station for electric vehicles
  • 100 percent LED lighting throughout the facility for general lighting needs
  • 75 percent of the construction waste generated during construction has been recycled or salvaged

Landscaping around the building includes native species of trees, shrubs and plants surrounding the building and outdoor structures, including an outdoor classroom with a crushed granite teaching pad and a Compass Rose sundial to accommodate astronomy viewing. In addition, a geoscene wall near the main entrance to the Center will serve as a teaching tool that earth science and geology students can examine while investigating various geologic processes such as folding, faulting, and igneous intrusions.

A one-of-a-kind highlight of the science center are the selected prints that comprise a “Connecting Everything” theme. The prints are part of the Portrait in Print Collection, a permanent part of the college’s art collection that was donated to the Friends of McHenry County College by Mary and Charles Liebman. The Liebmans donated this collection of over 250 fine art prints over the course of nearly 30 years and the selected prints highlight subjects in varied disciplines who have direct or unexpected connections to the sciences. A quote from Leonardo DaVinci, located prominently on the wall inside the main entrance, further expresses this theme: “Study the science of art. Study the art of science. Develop your senses—especially learn how to see. Realize that everything connects to everything else. “

“MCC is the only community college that has artwork that intentionally connects to the arts, music and philosophy and history to the sciences,” Gabbard said. “The prints include important people who interact with the sciences through other disciplines.”  

Speakers Series to Launch in September

To further provide learning opportunities for community members, the college will host a new monthly Liebman Speaker Series, featuring topics such as astronomy, digital technology, food science, meteorology and weather broadcasting, and paleontology. The first speaker event on Sept. 21 featured “Living with Indiana Jones,” a talk by Paul Sereno, a professor of paleontology from the University of Chicago and a National Geographic Explorer.

Students Commend New Classrooms, Labs, Study Spaces

Whether students have classes in the new science center or not, many prefer to study in one of its open student engagement spaces.

Nursing students Jeanne Rivera and Christine Jarosinski studied at a large table one recent morning.

“It’s beautiful, bright, and airy,” Rivera said. “It’s a nice area to congregate and be able to study with friends and classmates.”

Upstairs, outside of the planetarium, two other third semester students studied together.

“It’s a lot quieter than the cafeteria and closer than the library,” said Daniel Thomas, who is taking earth science and a blended astronomy and meteorology class.

Collen Pedersen, who is taking BIO 110 said, “I like the classrooms. The labs are awesome. This building screams science,” he said.