Saturday, January 27, 2001

Science wing worthy of new century

By Lori Hayes
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        FORT MITCHELL — Students were growing bacteria in petri dishes this week in John Rauch's biology class at Beechwood High School.

        The microorganisms were kept warm in the animal study center, a climate-controlled cabinet in one of the school's new science labs.

        The high-tech labs are the focal point of the school's $2.3 million science wing, which opened last week.

[photo] Beechwood students Dan Eason (left) and Zach Trenkamp check bacteria growth with microscopes in the new science wing.
(Patrick Reddy photo)
| ZOOM |
        From a weather station on the roof to lab tables with networked computer and video connections, the science wing is loaded with state-of-the-art equipment.

        “Everything we need we have right at our fingertips,” Mr. Rauch said. “The potential is phenomenal.”

        Less than a year after Beechwood broke ground on the addition last spring, teachers and students are settling in to the 18,500-square-foot, three-story addition on Ashton Road, needed to accommodate the district's growing student population.

        Beechwood's elementary, middle and high schools are housed in one building in the 1,000-student independent district. Before the addition, all students shared one lab.

    Beechwood Independent Schools' new science wing is filled with state-of-the-art equipment. Some highlights:
    • A weather station on the roof sends information to receivers in the labs.
    • Video cameras can be hooked up to microscopes or mounted above an experiment and projected on a large screen that drops from the ceiling.
    • Among the facility's safety features is an emergency master button that turns off the electricity, gas and water and turns on an exhaust fan. And the labs have their own ventilation system to keep fumes or odors from experiments from spreading to the hallways.
    • Two double-sided fume hoods allow for experiments with toxic chemicals.
    • Light-tight window shades allow the room to be made completely dark for light experiments.
    • An animal study center is light- and temperature-controlled to house anything from micro-organisms to fruit flies, reptiles to gerbils.
        “It was always a scheduling problem,” said Superintendent Fred Bassett. “Everybody was always trying to rotate through here.”

        The new facility will be for seventh through 12th grades. The old lab was renovated for the elementary students.

        The new wing, built on what was a vacant lot next to the high school, includes four classrooms, two labs and a greenhouse room. The Beechwood Educational Foundation bought more than $40,000 in lab equipment.

        School officials worked with a Fort Mitchell architect to design the facility, using ideas from national science sources and other Tristate schools.

        Each lab — one for biology and life sciences and one for chemistry and physics — has its own preparation room and storage area.

        The labs were designed around the lab tables, with adjustable heights, sinks, a large surface area for experiments, and computer and video connections linked to a central display terminal that the entire class can see.

        The teachers' stations at the front of the labs include DVD players, VCRs, cable television and laser disk players, all controlled by touch-screen computers and connected to a projection screen that drops from the ceiling.

        The classrooms have teacher demonstration tables for simple experiments; and glass cases in the hallways hold an aquarium, animal bones and other science displays.

        To show off the new facility, the district is hosting an open house in late February for parents and community members.


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