Those of us who went to high school probably remember chemistry lab. Whether we liked science or not, letting us play with actual fire made us feel like grownups were ready to entrust us with the future – sort of. But at Pelham Memorial High School, the empowerment emanating from their multipurpose Bio Tech Lab is as real as the sulfur based odor that made us feel cool when we got to light a simple Bunsen Burner.
For instance, with Oil Immersion Microscopes to study bacteria and PCR machines to do DNA work, says Bio Tech Lab director/teacher Steven
On the other hand, the true success of the 12 year old program is pretty low tech. The experiments, which cut across the sciences, come out of things that the students themselves are interested in, he says.
In turn, Mr. Beltecas oversees things as a facilitator. I help curve things in a direction where it’s going to be original and not something that’s put together as a recipe and then they are just going to come in and redo it, he says.
For example, students caught wind of a study on alcohol based mouthwashes and possible links to cancer. Out of that, they did a study on alcoholic and nonalcoholic mouthwashes. Both were found to be equally effective at killing bacteria but alcoholic mouthwash can leave a mouth back where it started. The alcohol based products stains enamel, which in turn, he says, causes bad breath.
Seriousness aside, he knows the making of good science and scientists involves a certain amount of fun. Every year, he says, I tell them to pick a couple of science fiction movies and try to figure out what parts of the action is possible and what is myth.
As for his learning curve, the lab has taught him a few things about teaching – especially in how he approaches his regular bio classes. We as teachers always thought that you have to stand up their and lecture, he says. Now my regular classes are also more student driven, where they are responsible for their own work and coming up with ideas.
Looking forward and back, the lab is looking to become affiliated with a research program out of the University of Albany, while the Bio Tech Lab has no need to fudge the data in terms of where it’s leading those who’ve passed through the program. Whether they are at Rockefeller University, Einstein College of Medicine, Columbia or in the real world, he says, when their superiors look to bring them to the next stages of being a scientist, the foundation laid at Pelham definitely puts them a step ahead.
And he’s not blowing smoke on that.
Haiti/Chappaqua Medical Non Profit Christine Caserta http://expertscolumn.com/content/chappaqua-new-york-nonprofit-educates-haitian-healthcare-workers-basic-care