Hinsdale Central upgrades science labs
Julie Baker leads a chemistry class in a new science lab at Hinsdale Central, where electric outlets hang from above for easy access and desks are the same height as the lab tables so they can be joined for larger work areas. | Dan Luedert~Sun-Times Media
Updated: January 7, 2013 6:09AM
HINSDALE — Larger classrooms with flexible work areas produce better learning conditions.
That’s the hypothesis science teachers at Hinsdale Central hope to prove following the renovation of their science classrooms during the summer.
“We increased our teaching space,” Julie Fernandez, chair of the school’s science department, said. “It really brought us into the 21st century.”
The science department had four classrooms roughly the same size, about 1,000 square feet; and three storage rooms of 500 square feet each. The renovation divided some of the storage space into classrooms to produce four classrooms that range in size from 1,000 square feet to 1,750 square feet.
“This would be considered state of the art,” Fernandez said about the largest classroom. “We have a refrigerator, freezer, dishwasher and we will have a freezer that drops to 75 degrees below zero Celsius. That will allow us to maintain DNA culture lines. We are probably the third school in the Chicagoland area to have such a lab.”
The electric outlets hang from the ceiling above each lab table where students need to plug in hot plates, balances and spectrophotometers. The old science classrooms had outlets on the floor where they often got waxed over by the cleaning crew, Fernandez said, making them unusable until the wax was scraped out.
Chemistry teacher Julie Baker said she likes the flexibility of the movable lab stations.
“It’s just a quick move of the tables to work in pods,” Baker said.
The tables also can be arranged so the students can see her presentation, while they work on their own experiments. Previously, “the labs were in the back and the desks in front,” Baker said.
Lizzie Kelly, one of Baker’s students, said the chemistry classroom is wide rather than deep, so it’s easier to see the teacher and her lesson.
Just the room itself, it’s bright. And I love the fact there is enough room,” Baker said.
Not only for equipment, but storage cubbies on the wall hold students’ backpacks that otherwise would sit on the floor. That may seem irrelevant to the science curriculum, but it’s an improvement nonetheless, Baker said. If someone trips over a backpack in a science room with beakers and test tubes everywhere, glass could go flying.
Mike Lan, a junior in an AP chemistry class, said the new science labs are great, because they have a lot more resources.
Amy Wey, a junior in the same class, said the new labs are functional and efficient, so the students can accomplish in 50 minutes, what used to require a longer lab period.