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Bring our schools’ classrooms into the 21st century

My SideMichael Wilde

Changes. I’ve seen a lot of them since I began teaching science at Glenwood Springs High School in 1982. The teacher I replaced had just retired after more than 30 years of teaching science in Glenwood Springs. My one and only colleague in the science department had been teaching here just as long. These two men, Chuck Piper and Bob Jones, started their teaching careers more than 50 years ago when the core of our present building at Glenwood Springs High School was brand-new. The “art” of teaching science has certainly changed over the past 50 years.That was then. When I started teaching here in 1982, there were two full-time science teachers. We taught science in two “dedicated” classrooms (specifically designed as science rooms) built in the mid-1970s. Between the two of us, we taught 10 sections of science and we had about 200 students go through our classrooms in a year.This is now. We have five full-time science positions at Glenwood Springs High School. This year we are offering 24 sections of science, and we have 726 students enrolled in our science classes. A lot has happened in our science department in the past 22 years. We are offering more options to more students than we ever have before.How has our building changed to accommodate our ever growing and changing science department? In reality, it hasn’t changed much. We are still teaching science in the two “dedicated” science classrooms that were built in the mid-1970s. The other four “science” classrooms that we use are in spaces that were originally built for another purpose and were “captured” and modified in an attempt to meet our needs. One of our biology rooms was built in the early 1960s as a home economics kitchen. Another biology room was a science room in the “old junior high” that was built in the 1960s. Yet another biology room was an art room in the 1970s. Our physics classroom was created in the mid-1990s from a storage space and a classroom that were built in the 1970s.Every one of these classrooms lacks the storage space and lab preparation area that is needed to adequately teach science in the 21st century. Four of these classrooms are located in the interior of the building and have no windows, hence there is no natural light and ventilation is adequate at best. There are also electrical power, water, technological support, laboratory and space issues in each of these rooms. Our average class size in most of these classrooms is in the middle to upper 20s, while most of these classrooms were originally designed for a maximum class size of 20.What do 21st century science classrooms need?• 1300 square feet of flexible instructional space (our current science classrooms range from 625 to 1,000 square feet)• Lab stations with water, power and technological support (networked computer capability)• A central lab preparation space that includes adequate storage for our science equipment• Natural light in the biology rooms for plant growth labs and experiments• Infrastructure that supports current and future uses of technology in the classroomOn the brighter side, I am fortunate to teach with five hard-working, capable, intelligent, and creative colleagues. We are doing everything we can do to deliver the best science instruction to our students every day. What we need are facilities to match our drive and desire to deliver the best science instruction in the best environment possible. In short, we need a school that will meet the needs of our students well into the 21st century. In the 1950s, the people of Glenwood Springs built a school that served us well for the latter half of the 20th century. It is now our turn to invest in the children of this century.Michael Wilde is the science department chairman for Glenwood Springs High School. Michael Wilde is the science department chairman for Glenwood Springs High School.


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