Look Up And Learn

North Sand Mountain High School's newly renovated chemistry lab showcases the Periodic Table of Elements on the ceiling. Chemistry teacher Scott Byrum said the addition will only enhance classroom learning.

Letters on the ceiling can come in handy for students in science class at North Sand Mountain High School.

When in doubt on a chemistry test, now all the students have to do is look up for a better understanding of an answer.

Covering the center section of ceiling tiles in the chemistry lab is the Periodic Table of Elements — just one of the many new features the lab has since it's renovation was completed in early February. 

The ceiling tile Periodic Table was a project of chemistry teacher Scott Byrum and his students last semester while they waited on the new chemistry lab to be finished. 

"I found the idea online and thought it would be a neat thing for our new lab," said Byrum. "We found the vinyl lettering from a local business and the students and I took the ceiling tiles and attached the information."

Construction on a new state of the art chemistry lab at the school began last year and couldn't have come at a more perfect time according to Byrum.

"For many years all of the science classes have been using one smaller lab," he said. "While that lab is still very useful for many areas of science, it was hard for all of the teachers to schedule time around it."

Construction on the lab was was budgeted at $400,000 and paid out of left over Public School and College Authority (PSCA) funds, according to Ken Harding, Jackson County School Superintendent of Eduction.

"That money, when originally given to the school system, was used with other county school facility upgrades," said Harding. "Funds left over worked out nicely for this addition at the school, which has been a long time coming."

The chemistry lab, once used as a computer lab, now provides work space at seven lab stations, with furniture designed to accommodate a classroom or lab setting.

"The tables are low enough to the ground that students can work at them as they would a regular desk," said Byrum. "When they need to work on an actual lab assignment, the chairs and tables can be modified as needed."

Additional storage space provides plenty of room for all of the lab's beakers, bottles and chemicals. And the facility is extremely safe, providing two emergency lab showers and eye washing stations just in case an experiment goes awry. 

On top of this, grants Byrum has been awarded in previous years have allowed for the purchase of science technology, including lap top computers and other digital measuring equipment. 

"All of these factors have turned this lab into a professional setting. It's allowed me to teach the students science the way they will see it when they get to college," he said. 

Due to the set up of the room, which lacks windows on the walls and the doors, a special security system was installed to allow Byrum to check all visitors before they enter the room.

"Just one push of a button and I can activate a video camera from my desk," he said. "A parent donated this to my classroom. Every classroom should have one." 

The lab, if taken care of by the students and faculty, should last over 25 years, said Byrum. The key, however, in maintaining such a nice facility, is to uphold a level of responsibility. That is something Byrum tries to focus on with each lab assignment that is performed.

"The only thing that runs the risk of going out of date is the technology," he said. "The tables, chairs and over all structure of the building is the lasting part. It's the part we should be most proud of."




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