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On a Mission to Improve Science Education

May 1, 2017 valormedia Blog

When Cathedral High School in Natchez, Mississippi, launched an ambitious capital campaign in 2012, completely renovated chemistry and biology labs were at the top of the wish list. The chemistry lab had not been renovated since the school was built in the 1950s.

Originally constructed as a library, the biology lab lacked access to electricity or gas at the lab tables and had only one outdated sink in the prep area. As the chemistry lab lacked a fume hood and neither lab had safety showers or eyewash stations, safety was also a concern.

“Our ultimate goal was to bring our facilities up to date with our curriculum and with state and national safety standards,” says Cathedral biology teacher Denise Thibodeaux. “The biggest challenge was updating and adding advanced equipment to a very old building.”

Under the guidance of Sheldon Labs, the existing classrooms were stripped to the walls; even the flooring was removed and replaced with trenched floors to provide new electrical, water, and gas connections to the lab tables. Sheldon then outfitted the labs with modern equipment designed to meet the demands of Cathedral’s advanced curriculum.

“Sheldon met with our science teachers and administrator and listened carefully to our concerns and needs for the space,” Thibodeaux says. “The plans they provided were beautifully drawn, included everything we requested, and made the most of our limited space. Sheldon representatives drove to Natchez frequently to make certain every detail was perfect. Every time we encountered an obstacle, Sheldon came to our rescue with suggestions and solutions. Since the installation, they’ve visited more than once to make sure that everything was working well. From the planning phase until the first class in our new labs, everyone at Sheldon Labs went above and beyond to make sure that our project was successful.”

Cathedral students have been most impressed by Sheldon’s signature Axis tables, which can change height with the touch of a remote, allowing students to stand while using microscopes, and then be seated for lectures. Students also enjoy using the UV goggle sanitizing cabinet, which eliminates the need to clean goggles with alcohol wipes after each use.

And while the science teachers are impressed by the organized storage created by Sheldon’s cabinetry, the students are even more impressed that the new cabinets include custom habitats for the class pets, including Gatsby, the African pygmy hedgehog; Delilah, a 38-inch corn snake; a rose-haired tarantula, and a family of Madagascar hissing cockroaches.

“The students are very protective of our new lab furniture and are fastidious about keeping the tables and sinks clean,” says Thibodeaux. “Everything is wonderfully organized, which saves me so much time setting up for hands-on activities. We were especially thankful that Sheldon was so knowledgeable about safety features. We know without a doubt that our new labs meet all safety requirements.”

The renovated labs have dramatically enhanced the teaching and learning experience at Cathedral School. Students are able to perform more advanced labs and more creative experiments than the original facility allowed. A project island provides space for in-depth, long-term research projects that were never before possible.

Cathedral students previously participated in a remote research project with the Woods Hole Marine Laboratory, but they had to travel to another school in order to conduct their experiments. Thanks to the new lab furniture and equipment, they can now conduct these experiments in their own high school.

“It is very exciting for high school students to have facilities that allow them to participate in such advanced, significant real-world science research,” Thibodaux says. “The difference between our old classroom furniture and equipment and our new labs is the difference between night and day. We’ve moved from out-of-date, awkward lab furniture to high-tech furniture that allows us to meet the needs of an advanced science curriculum.”

For more information on Sheldon Laboratory Systems, visit