To increase cadets’ scientific understanding, West Point is developing a Cadet Advanced Science and Technology Learning Environment (CASTLE), housed in the Department of Chemistry & Life Science. CASTLE will go beyond the classroom to give cadets the tools they need to better understand fundamental science concepts and to provide our teachers with the educational resources necessary to improve science education at West Point. By increasing the inquiry-based learning opportunities available to cadets, CASTLE will give those who want a deeper understanding of science the resources necessary to experiment, assemble and disassemble, probe, model, and mix—in other words, to observe science before their very eyes.CASTLE is designed to encourage understanding and interest in science even among those cadets wary of the subject.
CASTLE will foster collaboration across academic departments and teaching centers at West Point, but also with other military and civilian research institutions.In doing so, it will leverage the interest in science it engenders among cadets to advance a range of ongoing and emerging scientific inquiries that are relevant to today’s Army and our nation’s well-being. CASTLE will also improve the quality of teaching overall at West Point, encouraging innovative teaching strategies and the exchange of ideas through science-teaching workshops—in turn, enhancing West Point’s reputation as a premier institution for science education. The cadet-centered, cadet-initiated viewpoint of CASTLE will bolster science knowledge, breaking down traditional barriers to learning by increasing the amount of individual and group-inquiry-based investigative opportunities available at West Point. For some cadets, CASTLE will mean access to inquiry opportunities that will assist in overcoming personal challenges to learning science; for others, CASTLE will simply be an advanced outlet to pursue original ideas.In this way, CASTLE has the attractive quality of adding substantively to the education of both cadets who are wary of science and those who are already converts to the transformative power of science.It will fine-tune the education of those well on their way to becoming our future scientific leaders—and it may create a few others in the process.