CHS Science Center unveiled

By Jason Starr
The Colchester Sun
Members of the Colchester School District cut the new Colchester High School Science Center last Thursday.  PHOTO | LEE CORDNER

Members of the Colchester School District cut the new Colchester High School Science Center last Thursday.

Brighter, bigger, more flexible. Colchester High School’s new science center is “an amazing gift” to Colchester’s students and an inspiring place to teach, Colchester teacher Chris Lang said Tuesday.

The reconfigured science wing of the high school was officially unveiled in a ceremony last week, with Gov. Peter Shumlin joining CHS Principal Amy Minor and Vermont Education Secretary Rebecca Holcombe in remarking on the new facility. Students and teachers have been using the eight new classrooms since the start of the school year.

Senior Maddy Powell said she was shocked at the transformation when she stepped into her first AP Biology session of the year.

“I didn’t even recognize it. There is so much more space,” she said, adding: “We should be ready when we go to college having a set-up like this.”

One of the first things Lang, a 14-year educator in the high school, noticed is the natural light that the new configuration allows, especially when compared to the old classrooms.

“I spent 14 years teaching in a cave, basically,” said Lang. “Having a space people want to come into is huge. I feel like my students come in and they just want to be here.

“It really is an investment in the kids’ future and an amazing gift for the community to give to the students.”

Colchester voters approved a $5 million municipal bond sale in the 2013 Town Meeting Day election to fund the project.

Each of the eight classrooms can be set up to teach any science subject, Lang said, thanks to open lab counters and moveable chairs and desks.

“Science teaching is very different now than what it was like when the building was built in 1975,” he said. “We tried to make it as flexible as possible so we can still have this be a useable space in 50 years … The space is absolutely amazing to teach in.”

Teachers collaborated on the science center’s design with a task force of local business, science and medical experts, according to a press release from the Colchester School District. Black River Design of Montpelier, the project architect, took in the perspective of task force members in the design, “helping to assure the form of the classrooms would allow them to function as modern labs for scientific inquiry and discovery,” the press release said.

During last Thursday’s ribbon-cutting, Principal Minor highlighted how the space will bolster student learning in science, technology, engineering and math — the so-called STEM skills — alluding to the necessity of these skills in the modern economy.