In March, 2009, Centralia College opened a $32 million, 70,000 square foot New Science Center (NSC). For the first time in recent memory, all math, science, and engineering lecture classes and labs are held in the same facility. The NSC also consolidates faculty offices in STEM disciplines that have previously been divided among three or more buildings. There are dedicated labs and support facilities for Earth Sciences / Geology, Physics / Engineering, Organic Chemistry, General Chemistry, Microbiology / Molecular Biology, Biology, Botany / Environmental Science, and Human Anatomy and Physiology; each lab was designed with extensive faculty input. The NSC also includes an astronomy observation deck and a 1500 square foot greenhouse for teaching and research. The landscaping is primarily of native plants, an extension of the learning environment beyond the walls of the NSC.
The new labs and support areas provide space for student research projects and for inquiry-based labs. An on-going capital campaign by the Centralia College Foundation has raised $500,000 for new lab equipment, with a total goal of $1 million. Newly-purchased equipment includes 48 compound microscopes, portable environmental chambers, environmental and physiological monitoring instruments, a Fourier transform infrared spectrometer, and a petrographic microscope.
The design of the NSC facilitates both formal and informal exchanges among students. The building includes many study nooks and gathering areas for impromptu collaborative education among students and students and faculty beyond scheduled lab and lecture times. A wifi network covers all 70,000 square feet.
In coming years, expansion of the neighboring Kiser Outdoor Learning Laboratory will provide opportunities for students to learn the native plants of the Pacific Northwest and to monitor critical ecological and physiological characteristics of these native plants on campus. In addition, science labs incorporate field trips to unique local environments: the volcanic deposits of Mt. St. Helens, the glaciers of Mt. Rainier, the waters of the Chehalis River, the intertidal of the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Puget Sound, the mystery of the Mima Mounds, and the dark majesty of old growth forests.