Behind the scenes in the High School science prep room

Retirement – suddenly it’s imminent and after more than 20 years at St. John’s, it’s time to say good-bye. Over these past years I’ve often wondered how many people are actually aware of what goes on behind the scenes in the Science Prep Room.  It’s tucked away down a corridor in the HS Science wing.  There’s only an occasional visitor and I see more students than staff.

1Did you know we have a special Chemical Store where we store more than 500 chemicals – all safely stored and categorized according to specific requirements?  In fact we have one of the oldest bottles of Potassium Permanganate dated 1968 – empty2 but kept for historical purposes.  It must have been one of the first chemicals ordered by the school in its early days!

We have a wealth of other equipment, special kits, glass tubing of all diameters, distillation flasks, condensers, petri dishes etc. and a fridge full of biological enzymes – and for those of you who are chemists we even have
3a Kipp’s Apparatus which is a very old fashioned method of producing a
continuous flow of gas for experiments.

When I first started work in the science department the labs were situated in the main building on D level. There were only 4 of them at the time.  Three were for High School (Chemistry, Biology, and Physics) and one for Middle School Science.

On the other side of the corridor were the Elementary classrooms.  The result of this was an unusual yet interesting mix of drawings and paintings done by elementary on one side and chemical smells on the other side.

There was no Prep room so I worked in the back of the chemistry lab at the same time as lessons were going on.  However this was not a hardship as it was a friendly and shared atmosphere – especially with a dog and rabbit regularly being brought in by one teacher!

In 2003 we moved to the new Science Wing which was a complete luxury with 5 light and airy labs, and at last my own spacious prep room. This was a BIG move and involved lots of planning meetings with the architect and lab contractors. It seemed to me that the summer of 2003 was one of the hottest  on record and we had to pack boxes and boxes  (and yet  more boxes) of lab equipment and chemicals and have them transferred to the new wing.

The Science curriculum has evolved over the years …with some dreaded words like Internal Assessments and Group 4 projects involving lots of new ideas and even more preparation of materials.

ST_Francke ElaineIt has all been so much part of my life that I will miss seeing so many test tubes, beakers, measuring cylinders etc. – especially the more “interesting” situations I have encountered in the labs involving anything and everything up to the odd explosion….!!

After more than 40 years of lab work it is however time to move on, a Greenhouse and – this may not come as a surprise to many – Cat Sitting is on the agenda.

By Elaine Francke, HS Science Lab Technician