As with every summer, Austin Prep is committed to the improvement of physical space on campus to enhance the student experience. This past summer, a desire to expand science teaching and learning intersected with Austin Prep’s Catholic identity and Augustinian heritage, supporting the School’s Faith and Reason Initiative.
Late last academic year, following brainstorming sessions with science faculty and parents with professional backgrounds in STEM, Austin Prep committed to investing greater resources to expanding the footprint of our science labs. The resulting summer work involved converting instructional space that was not previously a science lab into space that is now a state of the art classroom. Based on current best practices, this first lab is modular and flexible to support teaching and learning in the life, chemical, and physical sciences in both the Upper and Middle Schools. Ready for students when they returned this fall, this renovation was a first step in a multiyear plan to upgrade science facilities to ensure that Austin Prep students will be well prepared for college and beyond.
The highlight of the new science lab is a new Anatomage Table, which is a 3D anatomy and virtual dissection table used in colleges and medical schools. The focus of the next lab is not yet determined, but we are reviewing possibilities with our faculty with the intention of renovating at least one lab each summer.
During discussions with parents about the importance of science, conversations organically expanded to include the importance of Austin Prep’s Catholic identity and Augustinian heritage. Many parents stated they invest in an Austin Prep education because it is a faith-based education – a compelling message that faith and reason are inseparable. As a result, Austin Prep committed to renovating the Chapel of St. Augustine, the center of spiritual life on campus.
Chapel renovations included a special twist: new seating that included a center aisle, something the Chapel has never had before. The Chapel's new pews were obtained through a partnership with the Sisters of Divine Providence who closed their high school, Sacred Heart High School in Kingston, MA. Once the school closed, an arrangement was made for the pews to be repurposed in the Chapel of St. Augustine at Austin Prep.
The Chapel renovation also included restoration of the original marble predella. The Chapel’s predella was previously covered by a platform, which was installed in the early 1970’s to serve as a stage for Austin Prep’s student theater group, which was no longer needed as other performing arts areas have been developed on campus. The Chapel’s tabernacle now sits on the restored predella.
Furthermore, upgrades to the Chapel also include banners representing the other Augustinian secondary schools in North America, and the St. Augustine quote which is the center of the daily prayer at Austin Prep: “You have made us for Yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in You.”
The construction of the first science lab and the renovation of the Chapel of St. Augustine was completely funded by the generosity of current parents and donors. Projects such as these are funded by philanthropy, and in order to expand programming, launch new initiatives, or build new science labs we rely on the generosity of parents and benefactors to support these endeavors. The exploration of faith and reason in the years ahead at Austin Prep is the outgrowth of parent generosity, and we are grateful for those who made gifts to advance the growth of teaching and learning and the commitment to our Catholic heritage.