Behind the Scenes of the NHS Science Department

The+Nonnewaug+science+department+obtains+plenty+of+materials%2C+such+as+these+microscope+slides+of+tissues%2C+for+experiments+and+studies.

Jano Nakhla

The Nonnewaug science department obtains plenty of materials, such as these microscope slides of tissues, for experiments and studies.

WOODBURY — Test tubes and lab goggles all around. Hypotheses and formulas created by like minds. Pinpointing the solution and finding the answer to the question — all of this is the goal of science. Nonnewaug is a school that offers a variety of opportunities for students who want to pursue their passions in this investigative subject.

There are plenty of things to participate in at the school that might interest students who are passionate about science, such as the agriscience program and the Science National Honor Society. Toby Denman, biology teacher at Nonnewaug, said students often aren’t aware of the science-related clubs and opportunities offered in school.

“I feel like some of the people that are in charge of those clubs do their best job of communicating their availability, but I don’t think that many students are aware of them,” Denman said.

Students being unaware of science clubs is likely a factor in the lack of knowledge about the department. So, what exactly goes on? Where does the school get the chemicals and equipment needed for labs in the first place? How does the science department function behind the scenes?

“We have a department budget and [Chris] York, our science department chair, is in charge of putting the budget together and placing orders,” Denman said, discussing how the school gets the equipment it needs for labs and experiments. “There’s a variety of companies that we order things through. A lot of them take place through catalogs.”

He also said that the science department has an account at local supermarket LaBonne’s, where they buy groceries that can be used for experiments.

York noted the restrictions and precautions on certain chemicals in school.

“We are mercury-free,” York said. “We have had some old mercury. We have a few acids and corrosives, and there used to be carcinogens [cancer-causing substances], but we’ve gotten rid of them years ago. We still have some radioactive rocks. But if you’re not sleeping with them under your pillow, you’re just exposed to them for six minutes, then you’ll probably be fine. We are really cautious about this stuff.”

Science classrooms include lots of equipment, including glassware like beakers and graduated cylinders, to carry out experiments. (Jano Nakhla)

Like Denman said, students don’t seem to be widely aware of the science-related opportunities in school. York listed a few of the clubs and activities offered at Nonnewaug.

“Science National Honors Society is offered, mainly for juniors and seniors,” York said. “We have a club called Envirothon, and it explores things like forestry and wildlife. Robotics is a club that is not widely talked about either.” 

He then discussed the various Advanced Placement classes and electives that are related to science.

“AP Bio, AP Chem, AP Physics 1 and 2 — all of those are potential classes for people that are into and excel at science,” York said. “We also offer a lot of electives like medical emergencies, forensics, engineering.”

The science department is the backbone for all types of exploration and discovery at Nonnewaug overall. Students are welcome to take any opportunities offered when they find that they want to explore and become enlightened as well.