Forest Park High School’s roomy new science lab has windows to the science classroom next door, allowing the teacher to supervise both rooms.
CRYSTAL FALLS—This fall, Forest Park High School students are seeing some of the benefits of the bond proposal approved by voters last year.
Before long, high school students will be using a new science lab built over the summer. Work is not quite complete. The contractor is still working on a few final items before the district signs off on the project.
Science teacher Jen Toivonen was still unpacking equipment during a recent visit, but the new lab is nearly ready to go and will soon be busy with students learning first-hand about chemistry and physics.
The new lab was a priority item for the bonding proposal, approved by voters in Auguse 2012. Forest Park lost its old high school science lab a few years ago when school officials closed the old high school wing and moved all high school classes into the elementary building.
That meant the high school classes could only use the elementary science lab—not a good fit, literally. After the bond vote passed, school officials immediately started planning to convert an elementary classroom into a full-size science lab. They studied labs at other districts as they decided what they wanted.
The new lab has 16 lab stations and can accommodate up to 32 students “and it’s still comfortable,” Toivonen said. There is also a teacher station. “I think it’s state of the art and high quality,”
“All the surfaces are acid-proof and burn-proof,” she said, “so they will last for ages.” The flooring is rubberized and low maintenance—great for a science room, since the floor won’t get all marked up.
Each lab station is complete with its own cabinets, sinks faucets and gas jets. Each also has grounded power outlets and data ports for computers, and they can also use wireless access. An interactive whiteboard will be installed soon.
No chemistry lab is complete without a “fume hut,” where experiments that give off gases can be performed. Forest Park’s fume hut has an exhaust that carries the fumes away safely. It has glass walls on three sides, allowing more students to see what is happening.
“There are some cool experiments,” Toivonen said, “where they’ll be watching me do something that produces flames and fumes.”
The science lab is next door to the high school science classroom, and windows have been installed, allowing teachers and students to look from one room to the other.
It means students can go from one room to the other as the work on their lab notes, with the teacher able to observe both rooms.
The lab also has new mass balances (scales) that are accurate to two decimal places, not one, meaning more precise results.
Besides chemistry, the lab will also be used for physics classes, with rods at every station, Toivonen said, “So you will be able to do pendulums, swinging mass labs.” Physics is offered every other year—it’s all chemistry this year.
Just off the new lab is a fully vented storage area with locked storage cases. Movable carts help the teacher quickly set up experiments. A dishwasher for cleaning beakers and other glassware used during labs will be installed.
A cabinet holds the safety glasses each student wears in the lab. “After each use,” said Toivonen, “they put their safety glasses away, and then the UV [ultraviolet] light sanitizes them.” The lab has a eyewash station and a shower—just in case. The lab is handicap-accessible.
Closner Construction is the contractor for the project, with IDI of Marquette as the project manager. “We’re very pleased with the work Closner [Construction of Marquette] did,” said Superintendent Becky Waters.
The new science lab is a big step forward for Forest Park. “This will give far more students the opportunity to be hands-on,” explained Principal Lisa Olson. “The elementary science lab did not have as many stations, and the stations were not big-kid size.”
More importantly, she said, the students who go on to study science in college will be familiar and comfortable with being in a science lab. “If you are going on in the science field and chemistry,” Olson said, “you need to understand the labwork.”
“The kids are very excited,” Toivonen said. “This will move them right into their college days—they will move into college feeling comfortable and confident.”