The Normandy, once a short-order diner on campus, is now home to three science labs. The space is temporary, and it’s beautiful.
Two biology labs and one chemistry lab moved there after leaving Jones and Ivers. The two older buildings are undergoing significant work to become an integrated science complex that opens in fall 2017.
In the meantime, some science labs are held in classrooms and lounges across campus. Three labs that need access to water were built in the space where French fries and grilled cheese once were served.
Natural light from west-facing windows floods the tables and floors. Bright colors cover the walls – a big change from previous spaces that were aging, worn and dark.
Tables slightly higher than counter-height make it easy for instructors to interact with and assist students.
“It’s been working so well,” says Janet Thompson, lab instructor. “Design-wise I really couldn’t ask for more.”
Some accommodations have been made as science faculty work with less lab space for the next year and a half.
For example, instructors packed “labs in a bucket” – clear totes filled with everything needed for an experiment or student lab. This makes it easier to store and clean up everything to make room for the next class.
They’ve also made pedagogical changes to accommodate fewer weekly lab sessions. In the Evolution and Diversity class that means doing side-by-side dissections of a sea star and a fresh water mussel instead of doing them separately.
“We need to wisely use every minute we can,” Thompson says. “We’ve worked really hard to keep the rigor. What we’ve kept, we’ve made better.”
Paige Gault ’17 is a teaching assistant for one of the labs held in the Normandy.
“I can’t believe how bright it is,” she says. “It’s been different for us, but very nice.”
Ten years ago Thompson came over to the Normandy for lunch. It was an especially scenic location during snowfalls.
Now she gets to watch snow and squirrels as she teaches topics like mitosis and tetrahymena anatomy and behavior.
“It is challenging to work differently, but it’s exciting, too,” Thompson says. “The best thing about this entire move is the benefits to our students.”