Full STEAM ahead at York Country Day School

Alyssa Jackson
  • The school unveiled its STEAM center on Saturday to a crowd of more than 500 people.
  • The new center has state-of-the-art labs, student lounge spaces and a 400-seat performing arts center.
  • The $15 million project was funded by donors.

York Country Day School unveiled its new STEAM center  Saturday to a crowd of 500 community members, students, parents and donors. Christine Heine, head of the school, said the center will  give students more creative outlets and chances to explore.

STEAM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics, all of which are topics that the York Country Day School is hoping to further foster with the construction of the 44,000-square-foot addition. The facility includes the Ann B. Barshinger Center for the Arts and the Brougher Center for Innovation.

The expansion cost $15 million and was paid for by donors, Heine said. The renovation is the largest  the school has seen since it started in 1953. Talks of the STEAM center started approximately two years ago.

The school has undergone a lot of construction in the last 1 1/2 years to get to Saturday's ribbon-cutting. The new entrance is on Indian Rock Dam Road, where you're immediately greeted by the front desk and a living room-style setup, complete with cozy chairs and a fireplace that separates the waiting area from the dining room.

"Our school is like a family, so how fitting when you enter that instead of a lobby you have a living room," Heine said.

That's just the tip of the iceberg. The new section of the school has state-of-the-art science and art labs for students to work in. All of the workshops in the school are interconnected; it takes just a few steps to go from machines that cut metal to the welding room to fuse the metals together to the robotics lab, where students can learn to code and build machines. In fact, it was in this robotics lab that eighth- through 11th-graders worked on the robot that cut the ribbon on Saturday.

The new Ann B. Barshinger Center for the Arts has a multi-purpose theater room, where the York Symphony Orchestra performed on Saturday. Heine said that in a matter of minutes the stage can be disassembled, and the chairs can be pulled back into the wall of the room by pushing a button. There are two VIP boxes at the top of the room where judges can view events, such as robotics competitions, or where students can sit together and collaborate during the school year.

One of the expansion aspects that York Country Day is most proud of is the use of all the space and the flexibility to use each room in more than one way. The Ann B. Barshinger Center for the Arts is one example of that.

"When you think about students and the imperative to have a robust education, this room really answers to that," Heine said. "Students not only get a personalized education but get to tinker and explore their interests."

Jamie McKim, a fourth-grade teacher, and her fellow educators are gaining access to larger classrooms because of the renovations. McKim was excited for the new year and the creative possibilities that are available because the new STEAM center.

"There's lots of new technology," she said. "There's new ways to incorporate the wonderful things we do in science."

Starting Tuesday, when York Country Day School starts classes, students will be able to work in a wood shop and spend time in a sound design center and video production lab. They'll take new digital arts classes, work alongside classmates in a pottery studio and learn to code starting in kindergarten. The goal, Heine explained, is to provide as many academic options for students as possible.

"We're trying to give our students many mediums to explore and create," Heine said. "You never know what you're good at."

Heine said that she couldn't pick just one thing about the new addition that was her favorite because there were so many great aspects. Director of Communications Karin Swartz said that she loves the new Center for the Arts but is excited for the entire STEAM center.

"The whole thing is exciting," Swartz said. "These kids are going to be smarter than me."