Southport’s new lab is preparing students for an array of
high-paying and rewarding jobs
The more things change, the more they stay the same is true in many situations, but that saying surely does not apply to the new science labs at Southport High School.
The archaic ones that occupied the back half of all science classrooms have been replaced by state-of-the-art labs in a central location in the new science addition, which opened around last December.
“This is one of the finest high school labs in the country,” said science department chair Mark Duncan. The facilities, which will more than adequately prepare students for college and industry, would make some colleges envious, he added.
Duncan and his department played a role in designing the facility and making recommendations for equipment.
By having the labs in one hub there is no redundancy in cost. Money is saved through the sharing of equipment, thus allowing for the purchase of higher quality gear. “Taxpayers are getting their money’s worth as far as education goes,” said Duncan, noting that the project was funded through the 2011 referendum.
“This is where it all starts in getting our students ready for high-paying, rewarding jobs in STEM” (science, technology, engineering and math), said Wade Kohlmann, a Southport alumnus who volunteers at least once a week and occasionally teaches a lab. “This is a wise investment in the futures of these students. This is a big deal for science in Perry Township.”
Juniors and seniors in Advanced Placement science classes can expect their lab work to be similar to what they will experience in college, said Kohlmann, who along with his wife helped move the equipment from the old labs to the new site.
“We are getting these students ready for the second half of this century. Those will be their most productive years,” said Kohlman, who retired as director of environmental affairs for Citizens Energy.
Kohlmann recalls the labs of his high school days having Bunsen burners and just a few chemicals. But that has changed. While the burners are still a mainstay, every chemical imaginable that students need to work with is available. There are also computers, compressed air, vacuums, microscopes, an array of other supplies and two wheelchair accessible lab stations.
The labs are bustling throughout the day. In all, six classes can meet at once. The main lab can accommodate three classes simultaneously, and there are three lab rooms for individual instruction.
Duncan sees students taking their work more serious in the new facility. “There is not so much playtime in labs now. The students feel like they have a sense of purpose.”
Amanda Schnepp, a ninth-year teacher, said the lab is fantastic. “It’s nice to have everything in one place. It is a much more efficient use of funds. Before, each room was outfitted with a laboratory.”
Schnepp’s AP junior and senior biology students and freshman biology honor students participate in a lot of inquiry-based experiments. “There is a proposed problem that needs to be answered, and that requires critical thinking skills. The students need to develop a procedure to get results, and that takes a lot of time, but that’s how science works in the real world.”
In addition to the lab work, ecosystems have been set up so students can study reptiles like snakes and lizards interacting with one another.
Duncan, a 29-year teacher, said he enjoys working with students so they can see science happening in real life. “I want them to see science’s connection with life.”
“This lab is special,” Kohlmann smiled. “This is a nice facility.”