Learning Science in New, yet Familiar Places


As Senior Anna L. attempts to enter her AP Biology classroom, she’s greeted by several 6th graders. It’s an example of how our community is working together by sharing space as our new Math & Sciences Center is being constructed. 

“It’s been crazy for me because I look across the hall, and there’s my old cubby,” laughs Anna who is a lifer at Overlake (meaning she started in fifth grade). “Now I look at it so differently because it’s all so small. I’ve got to admit that the chairs aren’t so comfortable. I guess 6th graders have a lower center of gravity!”

The decision to move science lab classes into the 5th/6th building during construction was made with curriculum in mind. The spaces have laboratory in them that can be utilized by even the most advanced lessons, and that was a huge selling point for teachers like Lisa Orenstein. “Nineteen students in AP Chemistry is cramped, but I picked my room because it has three sinks in it,” says Orenstein. “The curriculum hasn’t changed, and the hands-on experience that is the lab is all the same. We made sure not to compromise the classroom experience.”

The transformation of the 5th/6th building means that Upper and Middle School students may be rubbing shoulders this year while construction is completed, but Orenstein sees an unexpected benefit from the experience. “It reminds the older kids who they used to be, and the care they show for those younger ones,” says Orenstein who provided an example. ‘I share this space with Jen Pan, and on the very first day I was telling my students that I don’t allow computer note taking. They have to take handwritten notes. I mentioned a variety of note taking strategies including Cornell Notes.  Jen, who was in the classroom perked up and told everyone, ‘I teach that to my 6th graders!’ 

For Seniors like Anna, she understands the sacrifice that she and other science students are making for the greater good of the department. “All things considered, it’s a lot better than I thought because we’ve still got labs,” she admits. “We’re not in one central building so I find myself using the class time to ask more questions because I know that I can’t stay behind as my next class could be in a math portable across campus.”

The new Math & Sciences Center will be a space that will be a collaborative and full of high technology, but filled with inspiring teachers and challenging curriculum. “Our classrooms are going to be almost twice the size,” adds Orenstein. “The modernization of the new classrooms is designed to accommodate a wide array of teaching strategies, so whether you’re up in front of the classroom lecturing or getting students in small groups where they’ll be moving around, it’s going to be a community space for all math and science people. There’s going to be no possible way that I retire until I’ve taught in that space for several years!”