The end of the 2013-14 academic year is a blur of packing tape and cardboard. The summer renovation project is exciting, but the packing is daunting. We have a lot of “stuff”: glassware, balances, chemicals, lab books. The list is long. The boxes are many. It is easy to get overwhelmed and feel like there is an endless sea of textbooks and equipment to be organized and packed. However, it is also a good time to take inventory, not just of the “stuff”, but of the work we do.
When I look at the growing towers in Louis Lehrman Gymnasium, I realize the most important parts of our science classes lay beyond the boxes. Without the creativity and enthusiasm of our students and teachers, the boxes merely hold things. When we unpack them and use what is inside to explore, interpret, and test the world around us, those objects – test tubes, chemicals, books – become much more in the hands of both students and teachers. Science happens when lab partners have a spirited debate about the best way to make their compound machine more efficient. When the notebook is unpacked and used to brainstorm ideas for a science fair project or hash out controlled methods with a teacher, it isn’t the paper that is important, but the process. When I recall the excitement of a class full of 8th graders sorting out macroinvertebrates, it is the exuberant “controlled-chaos” of the day that is important, not the strainers and containers I am packing.
We are fortunate to have wonderful gadgets and tools, all of which enrich our science program at Harrisburg Academy. However, it is our community that makes the items in these boxes become something more and different. It is the ideas and the people that make science happen. While it is difficult to imagine unpacking our many boxes, and filling our brand new labs in a few short months, I look forward to watching Harrisburg Academy students use the items we take out of the box to think outside of the box.