Students at QND test new labs

By Herald-Whig
Posted: Sep. 28, 2018 10:40 am Updated: Oct. 27, 2018 5:14 pm

QUINCY -- Taylor Dietrich and Emma Grant carefully counted to 30, then stopped adding drops of the Benedict's solution to the test tube.

The next step in the biology experiment called for heating the test tube for five minutes and watching for any change in the aqua-colored solution.

"If the Benedict's changes from blue to orange, then you know a monosaccharide is present," Quincy Notre Dame High School biology teacher Dianne Deters told the students.

Last week's experiment helped the sophomores determine the presence of mono, di and polysaccharides, or sugars, in solutions using the most recent addition to the school – new science labs as part of an expansion and renovation project opened for the start of the 2018-19 school year.

The largest fundraising campaign in the history of the school providing a Catholic education for grades 9 through 12 raised $6,418,568 to benefit students both now and into the future.

The new East Wing houses two science labs to serve chemistry, physics and biology, an expanded physical science classroom, two additional classrooms and a new principal's office and two guidance counselor offices.

"It's really cool having the setups here. It's something we never really had before," Taylor said.

Doing lab work is fun, and even though she's not looking at science as a career, "it's really interesting," she said.

The hardest part, Jack Schwartz and Wyatt Smith agreed, was holding the test tubes for the five minutes. "This is better than sitting at a desk doing notes," Jack said.

"It's one of my favorite subjects," sophomore Dylan Cline said. "It's really cool to get to do stuff like this."

Not far away, Brandt Waterkotte and Lauren Woodworth worked on a second experiment, adding drops of iodine to test tubes. When the dark brown iodine turned navy blue, they knew a polysaccharide was present.

"Number three changed to navy," Brandt said before adding the lab note to his iPad. "This is a lot more fun than just sitting at a desk. Hands-on is a lot more fun."

The lab was a prelude to the next step of learning, using "this information to identify things that are unknown," Deters said. "It takes time. It's messy. They make mistakes. They break things. That's what it's all about. You problem-solve from those situations."

The new labs make a difference for the students.

"We had one sink in this room. Now we have 12. The room is twice as big as it was," Deters said. "When we would do experiments like this, I used to have to trade classrooms with the chemistry teacher. I'd have to be dependent on his schedule, and sometimes we'd have to put things off for a while."

She still shares the lab, sometimes trading rooms with physical science teacher David Damm, and even the art teacher asked about using the lab for a tie-dyeing project.

But Deters does labs when she wants, and when students wrap up the lab work, they can head to the other side of the room to work on notes.

"I want them to see for themselves instead of looking at a picture in a book, hearing me tell about it or watching a video. We could do all those things, but we want them to have firsthand experience," Deters said. There's a lot of problem-solving. They're figuring out what happens when they use known substances, so they know what happens when they test for a monosaccharide and test for a polysaccharide."

Staff members, including Deters, had a say in the design and furnishings of the new space. "Everybody who made decisions did a good job," she said.

Deters said the building addition was the latest in a long series of improvements at the Catholic high school which have included the Willer Wing with new classrooms, a multipurpose room, weight room and new restrooms.

"I've told the kids these supporters love them so much they gave $6 million. It wasn't for the teachers. It was for them. They wanted the best for them," Deters said. "I think everybody appreciates that."