Thursday, 1 September 2011

A Stroll Through My New Labs

At the end of last academic year, I said goodbye to my old lab. The old concrete science block had been built in the early 1980s, making it about 30 years old. We had wooden desks in the front, and laminate desks with grooves in the back for microbiology work. It had parquet flooring, windows that barely opened, and two temperature settings: Death Valley and Svalbard. This is now all that is left of that building:

In mid-August I moved into the new science block, and spent the first week putting all the specimens in cupboards and helping the technicians. I was the only member of the teaching staff who helped, and for this my lab technicians bought me a huge jar of Nutella, one of my (many) weaknesses. The labs are just about ready to take the onslaught of students in ten day's time.

This is the forensics lab, the only one that I was really involved in the planning for. I asked for everything to be white. I wanted it to look like a proper clean-room. There are still a few bits and pieces to be accommodated, but these will all be done next week.

The stools were not my idea. They are really quite uncomfortable, and the students will not appreciate being unable to lean back. And dear FSM, whose idea was orange?

The poster boards are 2cm too small widthwise to accommodate four of my nice new posters, and 2cm too small heightwise to accommodate two of my posters. So rather than getting eight on one board, I can get three on. Despite this, I'm rather proud of the (in progress) displays, and utterly indebted to @teachingofsci, whose posters on clinical careers and answering written and numerical questions can be seen on the right hand poster board. He's got loads of other stuff on his blog Teaching Science, and he is an awesome teacher and all round good bloke, so now I've plugged his blog he might link to mine...

And here's the biology lab:

It's by far the best lab of all. We got everything in the cupboards easily (though I made the slightly unnerving discovery that our real human skull is that of a child - I haven't told my more religious/weaker-constitutioned colleagues). Jimmy the anatomical model is at the back of the lab, and Steve the skeleton is up the front out of sight.

The pillar doesn't help matters in particular, especially when there was a very real concern that the non-interactive whiteboard might be placed to the left of the IWB, rendering it invisible to the majority of students in the class. But the IWB can be seen from nearly every seat in the lab except the two directly next to the pillar, and we're unlikely to have more than 22 students in the class.

And it wouldn't be a biology lab without some deformed-looking Pelargonium plants.

Two of my cycad seedlings are now in the lab, as they do a lot better there than anywhere in Jurassic Towers. The chilli plant will come back soon, along with a canna and parrot plant. My biology colleague and I have been discussing getting fish for the lab. I'd love to have cichlids, as whenever some cocky A2 student tries to claim macroevolution is rubbish I can then dunk their heads in a tank of sympatric speciation.

Unlike many teachers in schools (although I guess it may be different with labs), I don't have a single lab that is my space. However, as Head of Biology in all but salary, I consider the biology lab to be mine. More of my classes are taught in there than in any of the other labs or classrooms. Forensics may have been the lab I had most input to at the design stage, but biology is home.


  1. Looking good!

    Maybe there is a risk assessment wheeze which will get you the stools you desire?

  2. It's only a matter of weeks before one of the Level 2 BTEC students falls off the back of a stool, I'm sure. Let's hope it doesn't happen in one of my lessons though!


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