After a week of feverishly trying to get the lab set up, we had our first true test. All the Spanish language classes wanted to host their Dia De Los Muertos (Day of the Dead) skull making project in the lab. In addition we also had Economics in our lab working on Shark Tank. The lab was intended to house 2 classes at once, but we had not tested acoustics, observed distractions with there being a glass wall separating the two spaces, tested all facilities/equipment and having 60 students and a plethora of faculty, milling around all at once. If there ever was a time the lab was going to be broken in, now was the time.
The first thing we noticed is that the acoustics are not great…especially when you have hard plastic scraping against concrete, multiplied by 4 legs per chair multiplied by 60 chairs. The noise levels are deafening and we need to do something about this. We will not be putting tennis balls on the feet, because while it might be effective, it would look horrendous in the newly constructed space. Super glue and felt pads have worked well in the past with heavy use, so we will apply that tactic in the near future. Also we may try to put up some a panels in the ceiling to absorb some reverberation. There are no ceiling tiles in the space which gives that industrial feel, but sound bounces everywhere. Visibility across two classrooms was not a problem and having frequent student turnaround in the space was not a problem either; it was rather orderly.
As new students came in, we gave them a quick briefing on our rules in the lab and then they all went work. The students were to mix up sugar, cornstarch, egg white and then put it into a skull mold to make their skull. Once it hardens, they were to respectfully decorate the skull to honor the dead with icing. They also made paper decorations that were tied together on string. All of this is being used for the school wide celebration on Friday which was fantastic.
The teachers were inspired while in the lab and next year, in order to ‘STEAM’ it up, they are going to try and have the students create the actual molds in the lab instead of using a premade one. We will have the tools available for their use next year. The other takeaway is that we restrict food and drink in the lab, however this project uses sugar and after everything complete, even after a deep clean, there still was sugar in nooks and crannies of this brand new space. I’m wondering if there is another material we could use in lieu of sugar next year. We worry because of we want to keep bugs out of the space and luckily for us, we have not seen any this year. More importantly we want to keep our tools in working order as sugar and organic materials can really have a debilitating effect on machines/tools etc. Otherwise, this was a great success.