Learning Lab of Kingsport, TN

Kingsport City Schools’ new science- tech center raises the educational bar.

By
Laura Hill
On Friday, June 26, 2020 - 06:40
Kingsport

Known as one of the nation’s outstanding high schools, Dobyns-Bennett has long offered top-flight science education in a community where science and technology are important. But when students returned for the 2019-2020 school year, they found their school had raised the educational bar and welcomed them with a dramatic new front entrance that seemed to point to the future.

The new Dobyns-Bennett High School Regional Science and Technology Center, long anticipated since its December 2017 groundbreaking, had officially opened, promising students, teachers and the Kingsport community a cutting-edge educational environment that will prepare young people for tomorrow’s tech careers, whatever they may be.

kingsport
Evie Lafollette

Student-Focused by Design

The new three-story addition, designed by Atlanta-based Perkins and Will architects, replaces the 1967-era front entrance with a light-filled, glass façade.

The 70,000-square-foot, 400-seat building was designed to “create a culture that inspires innovation through science and technology.” The contemporary spaces include room for collaboration in and outside the classroom and formal as well as more traditional meeting spaces.

“It was designed by teachers and industry with students in mind,” principal Chris Hampton told reporters on opening day. “We weren’t just aiming to add classrooms; we were aiming to add learning spaces, and teachers were integral in that process. Students were at the heart of every decision.”

The new $20 million-plus center was financed through a larger Sullivan County school capital bond sale.

kingsport
Evie Lafollette

Innovative Environment

The facility includes 18 science/ technology labs, two workspaces for teachers, six student workspaces, one TEAL (Technology Enhanced Active Learning) lab, one large research lab, and four small research labs allowing for cross-curricular collaborations. A student cafe and administrative offices are also located among the three floors.

The new addition increases Dobyns-Bennett’s ability to support 2,500 students at 85% building capacity.

Five academic goals have been set for the new center: support scientific inquiry and discovery; foster creativity and problem solving; offer meaningful career opportunities; provide application-based experiences through an integrated curriculum and, finally, utilize the power and flexibility of technology.

Students have been excited and proud of their new center, and the community’s reaction has been positive, too.

“I hear things from the community like ‘I wish I’d had a school like this,’ and that’s before they even see the classrooms,” Hampton says. “And then you go into the classrooms and see that you have spaces most of us didn’t see in our college careers. When students go in here they know that this community, this district, values what we do here. And so they know what they’re doing is important.”

Hampton told the Kingsport Times News that newer programs offered in the center include ocean studies, synthetic biology curriculum and engineering design, and that future courses might include artificial intelligence and bio-nanotechnology, among others.

If you'd like to learn more about the Kingsport area, check out the latest issue of Livability: Kingsport, Tennessee

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Laura Hill is a former reporter/columnist for the Tennessean and a contributor to Journal Communications publications since 1996.