Additions to school enhance science education

Blueprints+of+what+the+science+wing+will+look+like.+

Blueprints of what the science wing will look like.

By Catherine Miller , Lifestyles Editor

An extended summer for students means construction and many changes to the science wing.

Over the summer, the science wing is being completely renovated to better help students’ learning experience and to improve the equipment used.

“The whole senior hallway is going to be redesigned to be an area that really facilitates learning,” Principal Moses Cheng said. “Typically when you think about a school, you say ‘Oh the classroom is where the learning happens,’ but it’s going to be constructed where the hallways can be used for labs as well.”

One hallway in particular will be changed so that labs can be done outside of the classrooms. Even the floor will be utilized.

“(Lines on the floor) will be set up so that they will be one meter apart,” science department head Scott Albright said. “You can bring the whole class out here if you are doing an experiment, but you don’t have to worry about bringing the meter sticks.”

In addition to changing the floors, a section of lockers will be removed to make space for a new learning space that includes small table surfaces as well as a large white board.

“The space actually becomes more about learning than about a hallway,” Albright said.

A major focus of the construction is to make the space more flexible. For example, some of the tables and chairs will be on wheels, open ceilings in some places will allow teachers to hang equipment, and white boards will be more common and more mobile.

“(The tables will be) able to move and reconfigure in any way the teacher in the class needs even in the period, so small group to big group to whatever the activity needs,” Albright said.

The rooms of the new wing are also being painted according to their type of class.

“The colors are going to tell you which part of the wing you are in,” Albright said.

Small group meeting rooms will be added throughout the wing in between classrooms.

“(It’s for) a couple kids who who are catching up on something or need a little extra help or have gotten when everybody else is stuck,” Albright said. “There are ways that you can do multiple things in that space, but each couple pairs of rooms will have that space.”  

The configuration of the new rooms will put a focus on learning and not on the teachers. One way the rooms will accomplish this is eliminating the teacher desk from the front of the room.

“No longer is that big mammoth slab stuck in between you and the board. We’ve pulled that back so that the focus really becomes on what’s being learned and taught up front, not on the teacher on a pedestal,” Albright said. “That way, hopefully, the focus is more on learning than teaching.”

Teachers will also benefit from the changes in the form of better preparation rooms.

“It opens up and becomes a very good prep area now instead of a cramped, outdated one,” Albright said.

The process of renovating began with Superintendent Doug Domeracki working with the school board.

“It was an obvious need,” Cheng said. “People recognize that science, mathematics, and that whole engineering piece are really critical pieces for getting college ready.”

After the project was given the green light, Albright and other science teachers helped to brainstorm and research items they wanted in the new wing.  The architects became involved later in the process when it was time to start putting some of the ideas together.

“Architects had to be brought in to kind of say ‘okay, if we were going to do it, what would it look like, and what is the estimated cost?’” Cheng said. “Until you get to that point, you’re just talking ideas.”

Science teachers have already begun packing their rooms in order to prepare for the construction.

“The board approved the whole thing in January, and once that approval happened, then all the packing and cleaning started for us,” Albright said. “That means rooms, cabinets, stores, chemical preparation areas, everything while classes are still going on.”

Albright believes that the new wing will encourage students to be scientists and not just science students.

“The new wing is more than a series of updated classrooms. The entire space is devoted not just to learning some science and facts, but to thinking like a scientist,” Albright said.

Cheng sees the new wing as something that will benefit students and teachers.

“I think all the changes are really good for the kids and the teachers,” Cheng said. “It is more effective and more relevant to the 21st century. It allows you to be more prepared for college, so I think they’re all really good changes and steps in the right direction.”