Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The Saga of the Science Lab

When we got the new wing added to our building we ended up with a brand new science lab. This is a good thing since most of us were doing labs in our rooms, without sinks, which lead to some interesting situations. My students informed me they always knew we were having a lab day when they saw the kitty litter buckets out in my room (those buckets are awesome!).

The problem with the new science lab, aside from the fact that it's on the far side of the building and can take a lot of time to get to (which cuts into lab time), is the fact that no one has ever had time to put it together and organize it.

No one, that is, until I took it upon myself to do it while Mr. T was teaching my classes.

What prompted this seemingly altruistic act of mine was the fact that Mrs. Eagle and I got royally pissed off the other day when we went in to get our microscope lab set up. The lab was, quite simply, a disaster. Apparently a number of former eighth grade teachers simply chose to empty their cupboards and dump what they didn't want in the lab. The student council dumped things they didn't have storage for in the lab. Whomever used the lab last didn't bother to wash any of the lab equipment which is why I found two beakers solidly glued to a counter and it took over half an hour to get them pried free. (The glue was, I believe, corn syrup of an uncertain age.) The sink was full of dirty graduated cylinders, beakers, and flasks.

This was not going to fly. No one is going to use a the lab if it's a disaster, and no one is going to use a lab if they don't even know what's in there.

So I've spent, so far, three days or so getting it cleaned up and organized. Every drawer has been inventoried. Every drawer and cupboard has been labeled. Obsolete equipment is stacked where it can be disposed of by The District. I have a list of twelve items that need to be done that were never finished when the original construction took place, simple things like making sure there is hot water to one of the sinks, we have paper towel dispensers installed, that the eye flush sign be posted, and so forth and so on.

I have found some interesting things in the lab. There are two stainless steel sinks that belong...somewhere. However, all the sinks in the lab are complete, so who knows where these go (another school?). I found two computer tables that someone dumped in there, along with a dozen rolling chairs that someone also apparently didn't want. I found a tub of frogs that have been there since who knows when. There are also two portable sinks and work stations in the lab that really need to be out in the classrooms. Well, since none of the 6th grade teachers want them (I asked) and the 8th grade teachers have water and sinks as they're in the new part of the building, it looks like Mrs. Robin and I will be moving these to our rooms; Mrs. Eagle's room is in the old science lab from 40 years ago so she has sinks and water.

For the record, rolling chairs and middle schoolers are two things that don't need to be anywhere near each other. Whomever decided that we needed rolling chairs has obviously never taught middle school before.

I am also writing a procedures page for our teacher manual on how to use the lab. Simple, common sense things like CLEAN UP AFTER YOURSELF. I am just astounded at how filthy some of the equipment was, especially the stuff tossed into the sink. However, the two science teachers that left last year were not known for cleaning up the lab, so I suspect they were the culprits when it came to the dirty, sticky equipment. Thankfully we have two new teachers who will be getting with me later this week so I can show them all the cool goodies we have ("Look, bunsen burners!") and go over the proper procedures to use the lab.

Hopefully this means that the lab will, finally, get used like it should be. And if I catch anyone being a slovenly pig in there I'm going to go a little but nuts.


Mrs. T said...

Isn't it cathartic to do a major cleaning like that? I'm equally as jealous of your doing it and having the time during the day to do so!

NYC Educator said...

While we all must deal with slovenly pig colleagues, reading this makes me very grateful to not be a science teacher.

nbosch said...

I've often wondered if it's a teacher thing---teachers in our building leave dirty dishes in the lounge sink and non-working computers in the mobile labs. Do they think there are dish fairies and computer fairies that will clean up after them?

HappyChyck said...

Oh my! What a wonderfully disgusting description. I bet you just can't wait to get in there and start experimenting now, though!