Community in the Lab

John Doll and science studentsI recently received a message from a former student who was starting her time at Yale.  She had some questions regarding a science course she was taking and joked that since she probably couldn’t make it to Science Lab, she was hoping I might be able to offer her some help by email.

For almost 10 years, I’ve spent each Thursday night in “Science Lab”, offering science extra help to Upper School students from 7 p.m. until whenever they run out of questions. This resource is available to students before school, during lunch, after school, and on Thursday evenings.  Like Math Lab and Writing Lab, Science Lab offers students a valuable means of support and enrichment. Students can dive deeper into an area of interest, or seek clarification on a topic with which they are having trouble.

Both boarding and day students take advantage of these support resources, working individually with teachers and collaboratively in groups to wrestle with their subjects. These labs provide a calm and unhurried setting where students can get the support and encouragement that helps them feel confident in taking on greater academic challenges. Dana Hall’s commitment to offering students free support outside the classroom helps to increase equity by reducing the need for costly outside tutors. It also encourages students to develop planning and self-advocacy skills. A student learns to look ahead and locate areas of difficulty well in advance and to come prepared with specific questions regarding the material. It also gives her the opportunity to work with teachers and students outside her own class, seeing ideas through a different lens and helping to deepen her own understanding of the concept.

More than anything else, Dana’s labs give students a sense of community. Watching a table of seniors from homes around the world working together on a homework set on a Thursday evening makes me proud to be at Dana Hall.  These young women aren’t just learning, they’re also talking, laughing and building lifelong friendships. They’re spending their time in an environment that’s tangible evidence that while Dana Hall offers academic vigor, it also offers support.  Dana Hall is a community of adults and young women who are there for each student whether it’s in class, or at 8:30 on a Thursday night.

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About John Doll

John Doll is the Science Department Head. He is also the Varsity Softball and JV Basketball coach. He has been a member of the Dana Hall community since 2005.

4 Replies to “Community in the Lab”

  1. I’ve heard from students about the sense of community that exists as a result of evening “Labs” and evening study hall, so you’re absolutely spot on! It’s great to know that teachers and students view these experiences similarly. And thank you for dedicating 10 years of Thursday evenings to supporting Dana Hall girls and their interest in science!

  2. John,
    Having witnessed the Thursday night Science Lab community in action for many years, I can attest to its benefits for our students. They help each other, work collaboratively, and solve problems in community. Thank you for sharing your reflections and for the time that you have dedicated to helping all of our students with their science education.

  3. 5 years later and I still remember my great times at Thursday Night science lab. It was a staple of my Dana Hall experience. Thanks for all you did for me and all you continue to do for Dana hall students!

  4. Thank you for sharing, John. The science, math, and writing labs are such enormous benefits at Dana Hall School. Through these labs (as well as conference period), girls quickly learn that seeking support is a sign of strength, not weakness.

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