New Carrollton Gazette February 12, 2004

Young researchers resume study at renovated lab

Tyisha Manigo

   Dolores Muhammad walked around the science laboratory at New Hope Academy in Landover Hills, monitoring the progress her eighth-grade physical science class is making with the experiment of the day.

Her 20 students, all dressed in white science lab coats, work studiously at their work stations and fiddle with their materials in hopes of making the objective of the day--building a simple motor--a success.

Less than a year ago, such a scene wouldn't have existed; but that was before school officials undertook a major renovation project which resulted in several upgrades and new additions at the school.

Part of the agenda included turning a small room that doubled as a library and a science classroom into an official science laboratory.

"It just makes them feel good as a science class," said Muhammad of students reaction to their new environment. "They have what they call 'a real lab.'"

In October, the school completed $600,000 in renovations that included upgrades to the school's playgrounds and computer labs, implementing a new computerized library system and replacing the facility's roof.

Principal Joy Morrow said the leaky roof served as the impetus for launching the four-month project. School officials decided that if they were going to take out an additional mortgage on the building in order to finance the replacement roof, money should also go to make other renovations throughout the school.

Morrow said there have been renovations made to various parts of the school--including new doors and windows--throughout the years. The improvements are necessary as New Hope, a private school for grades kindergarten through 12, was once a former county school originally built in the 1940s.

"Gradually we've been renovating the building a little bit at a time," Morrow said. "Every year we try to figure out what we can do to bring it up because the building is over 50 years old."

Morrow said the science lab gives students a chance to engage in more cooperative learning and work in teams, while the new library system--which features automated services similar to those in public libraries--provides better resources for students and parents.

The latest line of upgrades has met with a stamp of approval from faculty, students, teachers--everybody. 

"I think everybody is inspired by the renovations," Morrow said. "The kids are happy with the new facilities. The parents are happy, the teachers are happy, and the principal is happy not to have a leaky roof."

Students in Muhammad's class agree. The new science lab features storage units, refrigerators and fume hoods (designed to catch odors)--all of which helps makes learning more fun, they said.

"We really didn't have a science lab before. We had a classroom," recalled Mary Henkin, a 14-year-old from Lanham. "I like [the new lab]. It's fun."

"Before we didn't get to do the work. We would just watch the teacher," said Kester Wilkening, 13, of Bowie. "It's better now because we get to do the work ourselves."

Gladys Christopher-Knight, a New Hope PTA member, helped the school implement its new library system. She said students, including her two children, love the new larger and more contemporary library and approved of the renovations as a whole.

"I think it's terrific," she said. "We've come a long way and we're really excited."