Science teacher excited about possibilities of new lab
By Tim Leeds
Blue Sky School has some updated technology for its students. Updated as much as 30 years or more.
The school completely updated its science lab over the summer. Principal Joe Jurenka told science teacher Pam Renaker it hadn't been updated for at least 35 years. Some Rudyard and Hingham residents, the towns the school serves, said it looked the same as it had in the 1940s, Renaker said.
The new setup allows more experiments, more safety and more students to work on science, Renaker said.
"The students are pretty excited about it," she said.
Brandon Langel, a junior, agreed as he worked on a chemical reaction in a chemistry lab to determine the product of the reaction copper. But the lab does have one problem.
"It's a lot easier to work in. The only setback is we don't have the chairs to sit on," he said.
Renaker wants a clear, safe work area with no clutter, she explained.
The lab was crowded and relatively unsafe before the renovation, Renaker said. The two tables were very large, cluttering the lab. The lab didn't have a fume hood, which meant that some experiments couldn't be done.
There were only two sinks and two gas outlets, limiting how many students could work. Tubes atop the tables delivered gas from the gas outlets to bunsen burners at the various work stations. The long gas lines increased the possibility of the burners being pulled off the table and starting a fire.
"Some students interested in taking chemistry last year were turned away due to safety considerations," she said.
The new equipment has increased safety, capacity and organization, Renaker said. The lab now has four tables, each with two gas hookups, sinks and multiple drawers for storage. There are new cabinets, a fume hood, new electrical wiring and new plumbing. The new tables increase the work space by 20 square feet.
The upgrade includes a new sensor that can be hooked into a calculator or computer, allowing several students to electronically test for things like pH levels, conductivity, gas pressure and more at the same time.
Storing the equipment was a problem in the old lab, Renaker said. Much of it used to be set under the tables. The new cabinets and tables has solved that.
"Everything's put where it's supposed to be," Renaker said.
The administration and school board were very supportive when she approached them about updating the lab, she said.
"They pretty much rolled out the red carpet and said do what you need to," she said.
The upgrade affects many, if not most, of the students in the school. The lab is used for all science classes from seventh through 12th grade, including classes in biology, earth science, chemistry, anatomy and physiology, and physics, she said.
"I'm usually in here two or three times a day," she added.
Brianne Horinek said the lab is much better to work in, but that the old lab wouldn't have kept her from taking science classes.
Her students are exceptional science students, Renaker said. They have a great interest and ability in the discipline, and the new lab just gives them a better opportunity to study it.
"I'm just excited for these guys," she said.