New lab a breakthrough for Baker students
Some of $400,000 raised by supporters of the Baker Demonstration School's Campaign for the Sciences paid for new science stations that offer hands-on learning for students in second through fifth grades. | Photo Provided
Updated: October 18, 2012 9:38AM
WILMETTE — Her large well-stocked storage area still has to be properly unpacked, and the computerized interactive white board at the front of her laboratory classroom needs re-positioning.
Baker Demonstration School science teacher Mary Pat Hepp isn’t worried about those details.
She has a modern, well-lit and ventilated space in which she can teach the Wilmette school’s sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade students about multiple scientific worlds; introducing them to earth sciences, exciting them about chemistry and sparking their imaginations with physics and more.
It’s safe – for instance, it has a demonstration lab bench with a two-sided ventilation hood that allows her to show complex or risky experiments to her students while they remain completely shielded from fumes or other dangers. It’s the kind of equipment many high schools might covet, Hepp said last week.
Student lab benches have wet and dry work spaces. In keeping with Baker’s hands-on and interdisciplinary approach to education, the student’s new three-sided desks can easily be moved into modular shapes that encourage interaction, Hepp said.
“Even the light in this classroom is more conducive to our needs than the old laboratory space would have been,” she said, referring to the much smaller classroom one floor down, which had been the lab last year, before Hepp’s own arrival.
Baker parents, staff and supporters celebrated the new laboratory with an Aug. 27 ribbon cutting ceremony, after what Orilla Kruse, Baker’s marketing and communications manager, last week called a flurry of summer time construction.
The school has made science programming a priority; the new laboratory is the cornerstone of its official Campaign for the Sciences, an 18-month campaign in which parents and other school supporters raised $400,000 even faster than expected, according to Director of Advancement Addie Goodman. The money covered more than the lab. It paid for science stations in first- through fifth-grade classrooms and a specially-outfitted science cart for early childhood teaching, as well.
“Many of the parents of our students are themselves in the sciences, so they understand the importance of what this allows us to provide students,” Hepp said last week.
During the ribbon cutting ceremony, school head Dan Schwartz said, “These spaces afford our students the opportunity to engage in a higher level of science study while maintaining Baker’s commitment to hands-on learning.”
Eighth graders recently took time from their astronomy studies to give thumbs up to their new digs.
“We’re doing a lot more experiments this year, and it’s easier to do them here than downstairs,” Skokie teen Chester Beck said.
While work in the old lab was “doable,” Evanston resident Meghan Ter Molen and her companions – Morton Grove resident Amber Malik, Evanstonian Sophie Haight and Chicagoan Louisa Carman — agreed, the new lab goes well beyond that.
“It’s more organized, and a lot safer,” Ter Molen said.