What’s New at Carver Science Hall: Innovative Classrooms for Innovative Students

By Laura Wiersema ‘18

Science and technology are constantly changing, and now one of the classrooms in Simpson College’s George Washington Carver Science Hall is catching up with new student-focused renovations this summer.

The biology lab, which was once organized in three rows of tables facing toward the front of the classroom, is now set up in six work stations. The renovation was made possible by a grant from the Roy J. Carver Charitable Foundation.

The grant is intended to provide collaborative lab space to support the Palmer Amaranth Project, an interdisciplinary research project that combines expertise from biology, computer science, mathematics and philosophy. The space will have a much larger reach through classes, too.

The new floor plan is designed specifically to deliver a good line of sight and improved audio-visual features for all students, as well as easier navigation for the professor to work with students, regardless of where they’re sitting.

“It’s in the lab where I really get to know them and understand how they think, how their minds work and what they’re really interested in,” said Jackie Brittingham, professor of Biology and chair of the Division of Natural Science.

Each work station is equipped with the technology to display a student’s computer screen on the overhead projector and a camera and microphone for the professor to demonstrate from the bench top more easily.

“I think it’s going to impact my teaching because I will be able to access students more easily in that space, really get closer to them and enable them to work more easily with each other,” Brittingham said.

The renovations not only make teaching easier for professors, but the increased collaboration will also benefit the students. Before, students were limited to collaborating with their immediate neighbors. The open concept of the new lab eliminates that limitation.

According to Brittingham, the renovations will help develop students who place a higher value on lab work. Collaboration also leads to improved confidence and attitudes toward science, she said.

“I think it brings people together more,” she said. “It should even the playing field for some of our students.”

Since the lab is widely used, from biology and pre-med students to education and exercise science students in general biology and human biology courses, Brittingham expects the renovations to have a large impact across campus. But it’s not just limited to Simpson students.

The lab is sometimes used to host workshops for K-12 programming for the Indianola community through partnerships with the American Association of University Women.

“It may allow us to do things we had never thought of doing before in the lab,” Brittingham said.

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