Waterford Breaks Ground on New Science Center
In 2018, Waterford School adopted a strategic plan that prioritized teaching excellence, the student experience and fiscal sustainability. Within the framework of that strategic plan, Waterford is launching the public phase of a historic capital campaign, Waterford Rises. On April 8, 2022, the first of four intiatives of the campaign was celebrated with the groundbreaking of a new, state-of-the-art Science Center.
Waterford's planned Science Center will bring flexible, world-class teaching and learning spaces to Waterford. There’s no question our faculty already delivers an inspiring academic experience, but our current science building no longer meets our science program’s needs. We need world-class facilities to be a world-class institution in service of our top priority—our students.
The Science Center, designed for the 21st century, will elevate our academic experience and foster an even stronger program here at Waterford—bringing STEM education alive as students work alongside faculty conducting experiments and engaging in hands-on, immersive learning. The building's classrooms that will feature seamless connections between lecture and laboratory spaces to allow for the most effective science instruction, and programs such as robotics and Outdoor will thrive with the additional space for practice and storage.
The building will also feature a Maker Space, a Nature Lab, and an Observation Deck overlooking the Wasatch Mountains; providing a unique setting for studies in the heart of the scientific world of environmental science, geology, astronomy, and physics. In our evolving world, it’s vitally important that Waterford students are igniting their curiosity and honing their critical thinking and analytical skills in the sciences - and this building will create a world of opportunities to foster this.
This day was an important moment for pause and celebration. During the ceremony, Andrew Menke Head of School, Class X student Lily M., and Lower School Science Teacher Kristi Watabe spoke about the sciences, and the potential in this new building. Please read their speeches here.
Students, faculty and staff, trustees, parents, and alumni and other special guests on this spectacularly beautiful morning, on our stunning campus, it is my great pleasure to welcome you to this historic groundbreaking ceremony!
In 1981, Nancy and Dustin Heuston had a dream to create a learning environment so powerful that it could forever change lives because of Nancy’s vision, fortitude, courage, and wisdom we gather here today celebrating forty years of liberal arts excellence… preparing to build a facility that will deepen I believe transform the teaching and learning of science here at Waterford!
Nancy was unable to be here this morning, but sends her heartfelt congratulations. Please join me in extending our profound respect and gratitude to Waterford’s founder - Nancy Heuston!
Today we build on your extraordinary legacy of the Heuston’s and the contributions of so many others who have come before us in the Waterford community with the construction of a new science center! A facility at the center of student learning and supporting world-class science faculty. With state of the art, integrated labs spaces, a carefully designed robotics and tool space, intentionally designed nature lab, space for the outdoor program and an inspiring observation deck that looks to little cottonwood canyon this is a space that will lift and elevate the Sciences here at Waterford.
This morning we will hear from Lily, a talented member of Class X about her experience as a Science student at Waterford and why she is excited about this new Science Center.
And then we welcome Ms. Watabe, a 1990 Waterford graduate, and proud parent of a member of this year’s senior class, and another member of Class X. Ms. Watabe, a talented Lower School Science Specialist, will share thoughts about her motivation and inspiration to teach science and how the facility will impact science at Waterford.
Following Lily and Ms. Watabe’s comments, several members of our community will come forward to move the first ceremonial shovels of dirt as we begin this exciting project.
Again, welcome to this momentous event - a truly exciting day for Waterford.
Lily M. ’24:
Goodmorning everyone. How are you? Are y'all excited? ... I can't hear you. Yeah, that's more like it.
Okay well for those of you who don't know me, I've been going to Waterford since I was three years old and one of my first memories of science here was learning the Planet song.
Who else remembers this song? Raise of hands. Good good. Well if you remember it would make me happy if you sang along. “Mercury venus earth and mars Jupiter Saturn Uranus, Neptune, Pluto, Quarwar, Sedna orbit around the sun."
Who also remembers the brain sitting in the back of Mrs. Perkins's room? Or what about the pair of a smoker's lungs she showed us in class? Or the days where we'd watch the magic school bus and Bill Nye the Science Guy. And what about the doves that would perch peacefully and free from their cages, or the fluffy bunnies that would sleep as we learned about the frontal lobe?
Mrs. Perkins, for most of us, was the first person to introduce us to science and launch our scientific journey. She was the first person to demonstrate that everything we see, from the clouds in the sky to the different colors of skin and hair, is science. She motivated us to learn past our tears, our whining, and our distractions. And she really pushed us to see the world differently. At least for me. And she really showed me the beauty of science.
Think about how she and Mrs. Watabe taught us how to dissect a cow's heart. And how fun it was to play with magnets and circuit boards at our green, blue, or red tables in Mrs. Watabe's classroom. And when we made those little foam gnomes or what you would call elephant toothpaste on fathers day.
I think it's fair to say that everyone here who has been able to experience the lower school science program, is very lucky. I mean imagine, an 8-year old dissecting a cow's heart, that's pretty rare. Lower school science was fun, interactive, and eye-opening. Because of this, the difficulty of the subject never stopped us from learning. From studying the skeleton and learning about the Wright brothers to recording the behaviors of the weather and creating our own little rainstorms in Ziploc bags. Many of the things we learned then have formed who we are now and how we perceive the world around us, even if you don't realize it.
Those lower school years were when we were encouraged to be as curious as possible. And that curiosity lead us to what seemed like a frustrating egg drop and the time-consuming bug project or the hours spent trying to balance equations and extremely exhausting AP physics homework.
I'm sure all you middle and upper schoolers think that you can relate. But in reality, you shouldn't think so. Personally, for me, none of it was frustrating and time-consuming. At the time it may have seemed so, but in hindsight, those lessons of science really put this world into perspective for me. They taught me how to think and see and question things from a scientific view as I hope they have for you.
This science program has filled us with so much. As I said before, we were encouraged to be curious. Waterford is about curiosity and learning as much as possible. And I think that's exactly what the science program has offered us. And if it weren't for the huge elephant head staring right at you in Mr. Bromley's class, the famous egg drop, Mr. Harris's fascinating field trips and lectures on animals and ecosystems, the large periodic table in Dr. O's classroom which has become just another familiar language to us, and many other lessons we have yet to experience, I don't think that any of us would see and understand our surroundings as effectively as we do now. We have the former and current science teachers to thank for making our science learning as fruitful as it has been.
The value of this science program and science itself deserves a large space to fill with learning, experiments, questions and thoughts, knowledge, and discovery. And that old science building, hidden between the math building and the east gym with creaky doors and soggy floors, sure it has sentimental value to a lot of us, but it has seen its time.
And now it's time to say goodbye to that chapter and celebrate this new beginning for Waterford. This is a historical moment. We've all been here to witness the great science program grow and evolve. But squeaky chairs and broken stall doors are not what will represent that growth. Instead, a spacious energy-efficient building with the backdrop of the Wasatch Mountains, with three chemistry labs, a nature lab, a viewing deck, and so much more is what will represent this science program and the excellence of Waterford. 18 years ago, the seniors sitting out here, were just born, and that was the last time something new was built on this campus. And we students weren't here before, to see what campus looked like without the current two-story lower school building. But now we get the chance to watch our campus evolve, be a part of this new era for Waterford, and really appreciate the change in the science program from great to even greater.
And for those of you who feel that science is not your subject. That's okay. You should still be excited because this building is for all of you mathematicians, historians, and skilled writers. Because science is much more than just science. It is History, Math, and English combined. You need to know the history of who discovered the atom, you need to know who Charles Darwin was. It's important to be able to do math because math and science are incomplete without each other. And when it comes to writing scientific reports, you need to be able to have strong English and writing skills. So fans of other subjects should consider this their space as well.
And to those of you who will get to use this in all of your Waterford school years, you are extremely lucky. My class, class of 2024 we'll get a nice little sample to expand our interest in science with this building. Current juniors and seniors, it'll be really cool for you guys to watch the process unfold.
This building will bring this community closer as we take advantage of the space to fill our minds and learn together. So let's put our hands together for this extremely special and historical moment, where the science program will flourish and be able to show its greatness even more to our Waterford community.
Kristi Watabe ’90, P ’22, ’24:
My name is Kristi Watabe, but back when Waterford was brand new 40 years ago, my name was Kristi Leavitt. I was a student at Waterford in those earliest years. I was about 10 years old when the doors opened for the first time. The school wasn’t located here on this campus in Sandy, it was in Provo in our very first Waterford School building.
Now, I’m a science teacher in our Lower School. I’m also a parent to 2 upper school students, Seth and Lauren. I’d like to talk to you about what I love and appreciate about Waterford’s science program, and how my family has personally benefited from it, as well as the LS students I teach daily.
When Waterford was brand new, we had a very simple building and campus. The first year, we only had a Lower School - we grew after that. Our building was quite old. All of the students shared one science classroom - I’m not sure we really had the space to designate one full room for science, but Mrs. Heuston, our head then, saw the value of hands-on science in its own classroom with its own teachers.
Some of my fondest school memories from that campus were made in that little science classroom. It had wooden lab tables with black epoxy resin tops. It had a green chalkboard and tile floors. Some of the same teachers that teach you science here were there in those early years. I remember Mr. Bromley, Mr. Manning.…. Mr. Capener was there too. Some of your parents were even there as students with me in those early days at Waterford Provo (I’m talking to the Wells, Johnson, Heuston, Sakaguchi, and other families).
Waterford has always valued hands-on and experiential science learning. I remember dissecting frogs, squid, and earthworms from a very young age. I remember the nurse who came in to prick my finger for a blood-type lesson. I lit my first bunsen burner in that classroom. I have amazing memories of field trips to go birding or to collect fossils. At one point I remember being thigh deep in lake mud on a birding trip with Mr. Bromley. He asked students to wear wide brimmed hats because there was going to be a “lot of bird guano” falling from the birds soaring above us - BOY he was right! LS students, ask me later what guano is. And, I’m 100% certain Mr. Capener is probably still teaching physics with some of the same gadgets that he used back in those early days. I remember fiddling with the bicycle wheel gyroscope and the near-frictionless air track. I remember doing chemistry with a teacher we called doctor because he had a PhD. Sounds familiar, right?
Forty years ago, the room looked different, but science was exactly the same at Waterford. We had passionate teachers who made learning fun. We had access to the best materials. Those teachers and that commitment to science made me KNOW as early as middle school that I was going to become a scientist one day. I knew when I was in college studying geology that I wanted to share my passion for science and become a science teacher at Waterford.
And now we look forward to the building of this Science Center. It will be shiny, high tech, and new, but it will also be the same as it always has been. I appreciate that about Waterford. Excellence has always been a part of who we are. Students will have the same, enthusiastic teachers, but will now have access to a state of the art facility. I almost can’t even imagine it at a Pre-K through 12 school. My son Seth and I have recently toured high tech colleges with facilities and maker spaces like ours will have! My daughter Lauren and her robotics team will have an incredible robotics space to work in and to battle their robots. They, by the way, are currently at a robotics tournament at the Maverik Center - Go Ravens. You can go cheer them on tomorrow if you like.
My family wouldn’t be where we are without Waterford Science. My husband, also a Waterford graduate, became a doctor. Seth will study CS and engineering in college next year. And Lauren is passionate about all things science! All because of Waterford’s commitment to high quality science education.
Lower School students, we haven’t forgotten about you. You can also look forward to using the new building. The Nature Lab will be a magical place where you will be inspired by plants, animals, and fossil specimens. We will collect rocks, pine cones, and leaves to study in the outdoor patio classroom. Our Lower School robotics students will be able to use the space for tournaments or just to tinker.
Waterford students of all ages will benefit from the new Science Center for generations. The Watabe family and the Lower School science students, in particular, are thrilled to watch this Science Center go up, and we can’t wait to get inside to get to work. Thank you.