Watford Grammar School for Girls

How do you inspire the next generation to study sciences through to A-Level and beyond? One way is to create an inspiring space in which to study science subjects.

This was the reasoning behind Watford Grammar School for Girls’ plan to create a new, 21st Century science lab that would “bring science alive” and inspire its students to take on original research projects. After considerable investigation, the school chose a geodesic dome.

A fully equipped laboratory

Science Dome Lab Watford Grammar School for Girls
Today, the school’s SOLARDOME® PRO dome stands out as a landmark feature that grabs the attention of students, staff and visitors alike. Positioned on the rooftop of the science building, its very location is an intelligent use of space in a school where ground floor space is already limited. Fully equipped with laboratory workstations for up to twelve students, the dome functions as a multi-research facility, used primarily for small group work and science-based projects that might take considerably longer than the normal timetabled science sessions.

A dome for all seasons

Science Dome Lab Watford Grammar School for Girls
The school chose Solardome, primarily because we were the only dome manufacturer that could design a habitable, temperature-controlled space. The school’s dome is made of a combination of insulated panels and double glazing. Fitted with two doorways and an electric air-source heat pump, it can be heated and cooled, making it a timetabled lab for year round use.

All in the timing

Scheduling the work around the school was crucial. Work on the dome’s construction started over the Easter holidays so that the frame could be erected safely while the students were away. Further works were coordinated to fit around the school timetable, and glazing of the dome took place after the exam season was over. Fitted out in the autumn of this year, the dome was officially opened on 3rd October 2015 by science writer and TV personality Professor Lord Robert Winston.

Professor Winston commented after the event “It’s a real science lab of the future, isn’t it? I think it’s superb. Hands-on, practical work is crucial in every aspect of education, but particularly when you’re studying science; it allows you to really embed whatever it is you’re learning. Having an inspiring space like this in which to carry out experiments and do practical research is only going to engage students even more and no doubt it will inspire staff, too. I know I’m very much looking forward to coming back to Watford Grammar and doing some experiments with the students in this new science dome.”

Fulfilling its vision

Science Dome Lab Watford Grammar School for Girls
The dome allows the school to manifest its vision for inspirational learning through its physical environment. In a symbolic as well as practical sense, it engenders an atmosphere of excitement and wonder at the possibilities of science that crosses subject boundaries.

As Headmistress Dame Helen Hyde DBE explains, “Within the science department at Watford Girls we have a wealth of expertise in carrying out and publishing scientific research. This science dome will allow our best science students to apply for a chance to investigate their own ideas, to develop and test hypotheses and to improve their knowledge and experience.”

She continues: “Although the research carried out inside the science dome will of course have a science focus, we see the existence of the dome as an addition to enrich the whole curriculum. It opens access to the higher levels of academic study and will motivate all our students to think beyond the stipulations of an advanced level syllabus.”

At a glance

Location Watford Grammar School for Girls
Hertfordshire, UK
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The challenge The primary objective of the project is to nurture and inspire female scientists with high esteem, practical confidence and exceptional subject knowledge, who can subsequently study science successfully in the UK’s most respected higher education institutions.
The solution SOLARDOME® PRO 7.2m
Dome specification Diameter – 7.2m / 23’6”
Height – 3.6m / 11’8”
Area – 40.72m² / 438.3ft²
Volume – 94.41m³ / 3334ft³
Weight – 3000kg / 3 Ton
Glazing: Insulated panels 50:50
4-frequency geodesic dome

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