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Haw Creek Elementary Opens New Media Center, STEM Lab
Haw Creek Elementary Opens New Media Center, STEM Lab
Posted on 11/05/2021
The grand opening was a major milestone in the construction project that began in June, 2020.Featured Photos: 1. (Above) Media Coordinator Suzanne Hinesley reads the first story in the media center on Nov. 3 while dressed like a dragon. 2. Haw Creek Elementary students explore books in the new media center during a scavenger hunt. 3. STEM teacher Diane Reed welcomes students to Haw Creek's new STEM lab. 4. The school year began with new kindergarten classrooms at Haw Creek Elementary. 5. A student searches for a book in the new media center. (View the full photo gallery on Haw Creek Elementary's Facebook page.)

Story/Photos By: Benjamin Rickert

BCS Communications Dept.

Students explore a rack of books in the new Haw Creek library.As Haw Creek Elementary’s new state-of-the-art media center and STEM Lab opened on Nov. 3, Media Coordinator Suzanne Hinesley was dressed like a dragon.

The grand opening was a major milestone in the construction project that began in June, 2020, and the whole school was invited in the celebration. Students took turns exploring the learning spaces through scavenger hunts, high-fived teachers in costumes, and enjoyed the first book to be read aloud in the new space: “Don’t Bring Your Dragon to the Library.”

“It was a great way to reiterate how we want to care for our new library,” laughed Hinesley. “In the book, the dragon is too big, squishes all of the chairs, and is very noisy.”

At 3,830 sq. ft., however, a dragon just might actually fit in the expansive new media center. The colorful library features countless books, myriad seating options and reading nooks, a green screen newscast studio, a MakerSpace with a 3D printer, office space for staff, and a reading room. A wall of windows overlooks a wooded area including a 72 ft. wide outdoor patio and Haw Creek’s nature-science trail.

Students will now use the space for each 45-minute media center period, when they will enjoy constructive projects, individual and group reading sessions, and time for checking out new books.

STEM teacher Diane Reed welcomes students to Haw Creek's new STEM lab."The media center is the heart of the school," said Ms. Hinesley. "We combine books and knowledge with the act of creating, and kids love to come here to get their books."

Before students concluded their tours, they were each gifted a book to take home.

Directly adjacent to the media center is the new 1,071 sq. ft. STEM Lab. Each week, students will join STEM teacher Ms. Diane Reed to engage in hands-on, age-appropriate projects that integrate science, technology, engineering, and mathematics principles. Students will tackle challenges based on real-world problems using the five-step engineering design process: Ask, Imagine, Plan, Create, and Improve.

“Haw Creek Elementary is going to have opportunities for our kids and educators like never before,” said Principal Jay Dale. “There’s a lot of enthusiasm right now and appreciation for what we have. Opening our media center and STEM Lab has put a bounce in our step.”

A Bright Future Starts Now

The school year began with new kindergarten classrooms at Haw Creek Elementary.While the ongoing construction project introduced challenges this school year like limited parking and classroom relocations, Dale encouraged Haw Creek staff and families to look forward to the ways that the renovation will benefit students, both this year and beyond.

“The redesigned school will really pay off for our kids, which is the whole point,” he said. “It will also provide many, many opportunities to bring our community together for years to come.”

As students return to school next fall, Haw Creek Elementary will essentially be brand new on the inside with numerous safety, security, and accessibility improvements. The school’s overall footprint will increase by 11,833 sq. ft. The first through fifth grade classrooms will be built around their own activity areas with a single, long hallway unifying the school. A Life Skills Kitchen will give students the opportunity to learn about baking, fractions, safety at home, and more. Classrooms will be equipped with interactive Series 6000 SMART Boards. The school will also feature a total of four playgrounds, allowing children to play outside with others of the same grade level and ability.

A student searches for a book in the new media center.Students will see plenty of other improvements this school year in addition to the new media center and STEM Lab. The fall semester began with brand new classrooms for kindergarten and art. Later this fall, the nature-science trail will reopen for use, and the art room’s new kiln will be operational by mid-November. In January, fourth and fifth grade students will move into their new classrooms.

Even small improvements bring pride and joy to the community. For example, the school's entrance now includes a colorfully painted rock, featuring fresh daily artwork about student birthdays and news. Students eagerly look forward to a new message when they arrive each day. On the morning of the STEM Lab and media center opening the rock read "Happy B-Day" to Lucy and Aria.

“We can already see it coming together, and we have a vision for where we’re heading,” said Mr. Dale. “It’s just a matter of being patient a little bit longer.”

Haw Creek Elementary was originally built in 1977 with an open floor plan. Planning for the project began in 2018 led by the BCS Facilities and Maintenance departments focused on improvements for instruction, security, and accessibility. Design and budgeting began in 2019 with Novus Architects and Hickory Construction, selected by the Buncombe County Board of Education. Funds for two phases of improvements were approved by Buncombe County commissioners in 2019 and 2020. Construction began in June, 2020, and is scheduled to conclude in fall, 2022. (Special thanks to BCS Director of Facilities and Planning Tim Fierle for assistance with the construction details of this story.)

This story was originally published as a Top Story of Buncombe County Schools.

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