Chemistry students make bonds in, out of laboratory

By Nika Madyoon

Jake Schapiro ’12 ripped off his shirt as he became consumed with the excitement of the chemical reaction taking place before him. He grabbed a bottle of distilled water and squirted David Kolin ’12, as was customary. Katy Perry’s vocals blasted from Schapiro’s computer, filling the room with music.

It was a typical lab day in Advanced Placement Chemistry.

Students performed labs, a central feature of the AP Chemistry course, about two times each week.

When Schapiro wasn’t shirtless or drinking from the classroom sink during lab, he was either engaging in a meter-sick swordfight with Mark Swerdlow ’12 or tasting various chemical concoctions.

“Anything with liquid nitrogen I would eat,” Swerdlow said.

AP Chemistry has become known for its ability to create strong friendships in the classroom.

“I think a big part of it is the atmosphere of the class itself, because it’s so small and the schedule is based around labs,” said Maddie Lear ’13, a current chemistry student.

Lear explained that while the course is competitive in some ways, the focus is equally on having fun and working together to arrive at conclusions.

She cited the students’ familiarity with one another as well as the course material as other sources of relaxed classroom environment.

Hannah Schoen ’12, who took the course last year, also noticed the impact of laboratory experiments on the students’ overall learning experience.

“Because you’re not really sitting there listening to a teacher, you can talk to people and bond that way,” Schoen said.

The difficulty associated with AP Chemistry also contributes significantly to the bonds students form.

“It’s such a difficult class,” Patrick Kang ’12, a chemistry student last year, said. “We were up until 1 or 2 a.m. on Facebook chat trying to figure out the answer to lab questions. And we all loved what we were doing.”

“It was hours and hours of work for even a trivial lab,” Swerdlow said. “Labs were the kind of thing where you almost certainly had to ask someone else for help.”

Kang explained that, last year, students often came together and planned ways to “mess around” with the pre-labs they produced once per quarter before performing experiments.

“One time, we all changed the font to Wingdings,” he said.

Science teacher Krista McClain played a significant role in the students’ bonding as well.

“I have a feeling all of her students love her,” Swerdlow said. “She got me into ‘How I Met Your Mother’ and got me all the DVDs.”

“She’s alright, I guess,” Schapiro said. “But her husband is really cool.”

“Her husband is the bomb,” Swerdlow added.

At the end of last year, McClain’s students were invited to join her at her wedding, an experience they were excited to share with her.

“It started as a joke,” Swerdlow said. “And then by the end of the year we were like, ‘we actually want to be there.’”

The students got together outside of the classroom on several other occasions as well, whether it was eating lunch at California Pizza Kitchen, playing laser tag as a class with McClain or seeing “Transformers: Dance of the Moon” together.

At the end of the year, members of McClain’s class created a large poster collage complete with photos taken of them in chemistry class over the course of the year.

Though last year’s students have since moved on to other science courses, they continue to maintain close friendships as a class unit, competing together in the dodgeball tournament under the team name “DJ Paul and the PVnRTs.”

“I walked into that class with one friend. I left like I was friends with everyone else,” Swerdlow said. “You start talking about chemistry, but you end up talking about other things and you get close.”      

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