Lab School fosters community amidst pandemic

students collaborate in the lab schoolThe ongoing pandemic has made teaching and learning different, and at Bethlehem, teachers and students have come up with a variety of ways to make the new normal as normal as possible. That includes the Lab School, the school within Bethlehem High School.

During a normal year, the Lab School embarks on five field trips throughout the year. But with current health and safety protocols, those trips outside the high school have not been possible, forcing the Lab School staff to get creative.

“We were looking for ways to keep students engaged with each other while continuing to develop our sense of community, keeping our focus off the pandemic and remaining light-hearted,” said fifth-year Lab School Coordinator and science teacher David Lendrum, looking back on the Lab School’s activities in the spring of 2020. Some of those activities included a spring photo contest, sharing trick shot videos, and a Masked Singer-style lip-sync battle.

When school resumed in the fall, the Lab School used virtual connections to keep its traditions alive. The group has already held two Press Clubs with members of the community. These quarterly, 90-minute meetings held during a normal school-day include a professional from outside the BC community and shine a light on a profession or career field. In September, the group held a Zoom call with Bill Schrempf who, before becoming a high-level executive for several global businesses, was a White House fellow alongside Colin Powell. More recently, the group welcomed Dr. Ken Halvorsen from the University at Albany’s RNA Institute. Dr. Halvorsen received a grant this summer to develop a rapid response test for the coronavirus. Halvorsen spoke about his circuitous path to becoming a biomedical engineer. “Mr. Halvorsen was very interesting. I thought the graphs that he showed us about college were very interesting and he was funny,” said freshman Benjamin Laderas.

students collaborate in the lab schoolFreshmen students are often matched up with a senior buddy to assist with the school’s required Research component. This year the senior buddy model has helped freshmen feel a part of something larger than themselves. While meeting in-person has not always been possible, the Lab School mentor program has helped to ease the transition from middle school to high school. “I became very close with my senior buddy very quickly,” said freshman Emma Hill. “Lab School freshmen and seniors had meetings where we got to know each other. My senior buddy (Elsa) and I have a lot in common and she is super kind and has an amazing heart. Because of this program, I made many new friends and my senior buddy is one of my best friends now.”

The Lab School Book Club is another tradition which continues on a remote basis with the New York Times best-seller The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. The club plans to meet three times to open a dialogue on implicit biases and systemic racism. A viewing of the film adaptation is also planned for the spring.

The program also has planned some fun opportunities for students to get together and laugh. Recently, they held a Just Dance Now virtual dance-off with students competing against one another in real-time using an app on their phone and a Google Meet. Next on the schedule is a team competition between the graduating classes using Kahoot! Trivia questions. 

English Teacher Andrew Rickert reflected on the changes Lab School has made over the last few months. “Since we loop with students for two years, the Lab School model affords us a great deal of time to monitor and assist with our student’s emotional well-being. In a year such as 2020, we can tell our students just miss that connection with one another and need a chance to laugh and look toward the future with positivity.” 

For more information on the Lab School program, visit their website.

Applications for the BC Lab School’s class of 2025 lottery will become available this January. Current high school students who are interested in joining should see their Counselor.