We all know the saying, “Reading, writing and arithmetic.” But what about science? And while we love the places books can transport us to, or how important math skills are when we need to mentally crunch some quick numbers, biology and chemistry classes shed new light on things in our daily lives that we take for granted. With that in mind, here are some of our favorite science class memories.
In my middle school years I dissected a frog and spent a summer memorizing the periodic table, but the thing that stuck with me the most was our photo lab. Our science teacher, Mr. Lapp, was into photography and taught any student interested how to develop prints. For a small fee, we’d get a roll of black and white film and a borrowed camera. Once Mr. Lapp developed the film, we had a roll of negatives to experiment with all year long. Every week he gave us a free period to work on whatever science projects we wanted, and for my friends and me, that usually meant a trip to the darkroom. Our skills were less than perfect (see above), but we experimented with dodging and burning, enlargements and overlapping negatives to create brand new images, all before putting them in Dektol and fixer solutions (I’ll remember those names – and their smells – the rest of my life) to solidify our amateur creations.
Later, in my high school photography classes, I realized our system was simplified for middle school, but looking back it was a fantastic pairing of art and science that I wish more public schools had today. It was a heck of a lot of fun, and time in that photo lab is still recounted between me and my friends today. And in the days before ubiquitous camera phones, this was true analog photography – no Instagram filter required – and an excuse to carry a camera around school. We captured terrible haircuts, questionable fashion and candid moments that I wouldn’t trade for anything.
During high school, my favorite subjects were English and History. And yet, some of my greatest memories come from science class. I was lucky to attend a school that heavily emphasized hands-on lab experiments. I also have a parent who is a scientist by trade, and who pushed me to take advanced science classes. Often, I felt out of place among my naturally science-minded classmates, but many of those lab experiments have really stuck with me.
Far from a fan of slimy creatures, I will never forget spending an entire week during marine biology class dissecting a small shark. I think it took me until day three to actually touch the thing. The formaldehyde smell and somewhat dehydrated skin of the shark really gave me pause. Luckily, my lab partners had been willing (perhaps excited) to handle the shark up to that point, and I was more than happy to take notes for all of us. On day three, though, my teacher persuaded me to finally get my hands dirty. Had he not, I never would’ve discovered that our shark was carrying nine fetuses! I like to think that must be some kind of marine biology class record.
It seems those types of extreme experiences are what going to school is all about. While a career in biology didn’t turn out to be my path, I’m grateful that I had a chance to try it out first hand.