The sounds of students “oohing” and “aahing” echoed all the way to the main entrance at Sawnee Elementary.
The noise was coming from students in Planet Sawnee, the school’s new science lab. They were watching as Wes McCall, chairman of the school’s Parent Teacher Association science lab, used a hammer to smash minerals and test for hardness.
McCall said he hopes to maintain that same level of excitement felt during the lab’s grand opening Friday.
Several other elementary schools in Forsyth have a science lab, but Sawnee Principal Eileen Nix said her school didn’t have “enough room to do something like this for a long time.”
But thanks to the opening this year of Kelly Mill Elementary, Sawnee has fewer students and more space.
McCall said the PTA was eager to make a lab happen. Parents were given one room and one major request.
“One of the things that was requested of us before we started the science lab was that we make it exciting, that we make it look good,” McCall said.
In addition to animals, fossils and lab desks, the science lab walls are covered in science charts and information, signs, posters and murals painted by another PTA member.
“It’s a great way to enhance their education and it brings a whole new level of experience to the kids,” McCall said. “Just to be able to go out of their classroom setting and come to a science lab, it gives them excitement so they’re going to start paying attention to what’s going on.”
The association’s work with the lab did not end with designing and creating the room. As a teacher plans a lesson, all they need to do is provide a list of tools, when they need them and details about the experiment, McCall said.
“We go out and get all the materials they need for it so they can have it ready,” he said. “Then they come in, they experience it and then they can just leave.”
School Superintendent Buster Evans toured the room with other system officials Friday.
Evans was impressed, noting that a single science-dedicated room is “so efficient because if you try to replicate this in every individual classroom in the school, one, you would have a lot of items and supplies that don’t get regularly used, and two, you’d have space that’s not being well-used.”
“This way they can come in here and whether they’re working with a parent volunteer or a special program or if a teacher wants to plan a lesson, this is a good way to do it,” he said.
McCall, a battalion chief with the Alpharetta Fire Department, said he’s grateful to have a flexible schedule to be active in son Ian’s education. They are particularly excited about the greenhouse that opened with the science lab.
“It’s going to show the students the difference between climates,” he said. “They’re going to have a tropical, hot, humid climate in the greenhouse, and then we’re going to have an outdoor grow box so they can see the difference in the growing patterns between climates.”