“It’s a three-dimensional textbook,” says Jeff Elliott, architect with JCJ Architecture, of the aquatic-themed Marine Science Magnet High School in Groton, Conn. The school, located on the Connecticut shore near New London Harbor and designed by JCJ, first opened its doors to roughly 100 ninth- and tenth-graders this past fall. It includes nautical features such as large windows for observing the aquatic culture and a first-of-its-kind ship simulator for learning how to navigate ships in ports. The school draws in students on a lottery basis from southeastern Connecticut districts including Groton, Stonington and New London.
The high school’s story began in 1999 when five Connecticut superintendents became aware of money available through the state board of education for construction of magnet schools. They wanted a school dedicated to marine science due to their proximity to the ocean and the nautical lifestyle of the shore. It took nearly a decade to find a location, but in early 2010, construction began with a $27 million bond, according to Doreen Marvin, director of development for the regional education service center LEARN in southeastern Connecticut.
Marine Science Magnet High was completed by September 2011.
The school was designed to contain only half of the students at any given time. Half of the time, says Marvin, students are out on the water, exploring the river estuary or researching aquatic life in a salt marsh or on a boat.
The science-based curriculum attracts many children looking to pursue careers in the maritime industry, which is prominent along the Connecticut shoreline. While other core classes are included in lessons, the school does not offer extracurricular activities and students must travel back to their original district after school to participate in them. Beyond the research-based curriculum, the school touts many green and sustainable features, as well. Although there is no way of knowing definitively the return on investment the school will get for its solar panels, rainwater reclamation, green roof and geothermal heating and cooling system, Marvin estimates that within 10 years the school should save approximately $800,000.