For Marco Bortnick, it isn't art or music class that most inspires his creativity in school.
"It's when I'm in math," says the fourth-grader at Edison Elementary in Willoughby.
Geometry comes to life as he builds a racing track for marbles or designs a mini-golf course. At home, Marco builds skyscrapers out of Legos.
It's no surprise then that he will be one of 225 students attending Willoughby-Eastlake School District's new School of Innovation.
Renovations on the former Eaton University Training Center in Willoughby Hills began in March and are scheduled for completion in August. Starting with third- through fifth-graders, the school will add a grade each year as students move up. Eventually, it will go up to 12th-grade.
The 70,000-square-foot science, technology, engineering and math school will promote design-focused learning with collaborative spaces and outdoor classrooms, wherein students participate in ecological and landform studies and maker labs outfitted with laser cutters and 3-D printers.
"I'll be able to build new things," says Marco, adding that he hopes a robotic arm with a claw is among them.
The teachers are looking forward to a new sense of freedom as well.
"A traditional schoolroom has 25 children behind 25 desks with one teacher," says art and design instructor Rachel Legerski.
In contrast, the new STEM school will feature teams of teachers working with larger groups in open spaces as they tackle Lego Robotics and an Engineering is Elementary program.
STEM curriculums traditionally focus on sixth- through 12th-graders, but the district aims to be an example for other school systems with the induction of younger kids. Legerski says young kids love science before they even know it's science.
"They're afraid of math and science as they get older," she says. "If you hook them that young, you build a strong foundation for STEM subjects."