Sacred Heart Model School unveils state-of-the-art science lab

Sacred Heart Model School celebrated a ribbon-cutting ceremony for its new middle school science laboratory in SHMS’ Brescia Hall on Thursday, October 28, 2021. The Sister Dominica Hettinger, OSU Science Lab boasts features more typical of a high school or college lab.

To support the hands-on learning of the International Baccalaureate Middle Years Programme (MYP), the Sister Dominica Hettinger science lab serves the school’s Level Seven and Level Eight students with foundational lab safety features not typically present in a middle school setting. It has five adjustable student lab tables and one teacher demonstration table, each with water and gas sources and electrical outlets. The lab also boasts safety features such as an eyewash station, safety shower, and lab goggle sanitation closet. The built-in storage holds equipment, tools, and materials with locking drawers for chemical storage. The spacious lab is full of natural light and a positive ambiance.

SHMS students in new lab

Those in attendance heard from Dr. Karen McNay, president of Sacred Heart Schools, and Tricia Forde, assistant principal about the importance of this new space for the hands-on, MYP science curriculum. Two Level Eight students, Savanah Dunaway and Truman Needham spoke on what the new lab means to them and the future of science at SHMS.

SHMS students speak about lab

According to MYP science teacher, Elena Puentes, the new lab enhances the chemistry and physics curriculum immensely. She states they can now more properly and safely conduct independent, student-led inquiry labs, are able to cover a more extensive chemistry curriculum, and can safely use chemicals to demonstrate concepts and give students hands-on experience with them. The large, spacious room provides a conducive environment for the physics curriculum, and they can do a more hands-on biology curriculum thanks to student lab tables and outlets for microscopes, dissections, and lab work.

SHMS Lab Flame Experiment

Students have been SO excited and enthusiastic about science this year, says Puentes. “They continually mention that the classes are difficult, but that they always enjoy being in here. This is my goal for them - that they experience a rigorous, thorough, foundational science education as middle school students while feeling safe, happy, and motivated. The new lab has provided the means for exactly that. It has renewed my excitement as a science teacher, challenged me to rise to the occasion of providing even more opportunities for students, encouraged the academic intrigue and interest level of our middle schoolers in the field of science, and has made "doing science" more accessible. It has truly brought learning to their fingertips, and for that, I am exceptionally grateful.”

Mrs. Puentes experiment

An anonymous donor provided the funding for the lab. At the ceremony, Dr. Michael Bratcher, principal of Sacred Heart Model School said, "our community's passion for academics and investment in its future continue to amaze and inspire all of us gathered here. This lab has obviously been made possible, in part, by our unwavering commitment to provide the highest quality teaching and learning environment for our students and teaching faculty. This state-of-the-art lab is a bold reflection of that commitment."

Ursuline Sister of Louisville Dominica Hettinger, Ph.D. was the first Dean of Ursuline College and played a major role in strengthening Sacred Heart Junior College and establishing Sacred Heart Model School. She attended St. Martin, Sacred Heart Academy, and Ursuline Normal School, before earning her BA, MS, and Ph.D. in 1933 in Biology, from The Catholic Sisters College of The Catholic University of America in Washington, DC. She was appointed community supervisor of Ursuline Schools in 1920, organized and administered Sacred Heart Model School, was the Dean and Directress of education at Ursuline College, and later headed the Science Department there.

Sister Jean Anne Zappa, OSU provided the blessing for the new lab on behalf of the Ursuline Sisters of Louisville, who sponsor Sacred Heart Schools. Sister said, "Today we ask God's blessing on this center of seeking, discovering, and learning of what is true. We ask for God's blessing on the donor whose generous heart made this possible. We ask God's blessings on the teachers and students of this space to come to the realization of whatever is taught, the final learning is about love of God and neighbor and witnessing to the gospel of love and justice."