Science Hill classroom renovations continue

Students who trek up to Science Hill in the fall will be greeted by 14 newly renovated classrooms.

The summer renovations are the second phase of a two-year, $13 million initiative to modernize lecture halls and small classrooms across several Science Hill buildings, said Associate Provost for Science and Technology Timothy O’Connor. The upcoming renovations will mirror those done last summer to classrooms in Sloane Physics Laboratory, which students and faculty said greatly improved both the teaching and learning experience.

“A lot of students experience those lecture halls, and they were by and large in pretty bad shape,” O’Connor said. “The quality of the space did not reflect the quality of the science and the faculty and the students. [Renovation] was an absolute necessity, and it was not difficult to identify those as an institutional priority.”

The most noticeable changes will occur in three Science Hill lecture halls, O’Connor said. Two in Sterling Chemistry Laboratory — SCL 110 and SCL 160 — and one in Osborn Memorial Laboratory — OML 202 — will receive numerous upgrades including new, more comfortable seating, modern audiovisual equipment, improved climate controls and acoustic improvements. Across SCL, OML and Gibbs Laboratories, 11 additional classrooms will see smaller changes, ranging from new coats of paint to improvements in audio-video equipment.

If the reactions to last summer’s SPL renovations are any indication, students and faculty will benefit greatly from the upcoming changes. Physics professor Sean Barrett, who taught in one of the physics classrooms renovated last year, said the space before renovations was like a “tropical rainforest” in warm weather, adding that the improvements in the ventilation system fixed the issue. Tomas Albergo ’15, who had class in one of the physics lecture halls last year, said the renovations fixed shortcomings in ventilation, seats, desks and projection systems.

“It just seemed an improvement to the entire environment,” he said.

Multiple STEM departments have worked to promote active learning in their classes, and O’Connor said the renovations help teachers engage students. Some of the smaller classrooms will feature movable furniture, allowing students to collaborate in different-sized groups. Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Department Chair Paul Turner said while OML 202 currently only has one projection screen, it will have multiple after the renovation, allowing instructors to display many slides at once.

The active learning environment sought comes with some nonfinancial costs as well. Installing swiveling chairs in one of the physics lecture halls last summer reduced the room’s seating capacity, posing a “challenge” to the department in the face of rising enrollments, Barrett said in a Wednesday email.

“We are really hoping that [renovations] present the opportunity for faculty to think about innovative ways of teaching, and we are trying to design space that will be consistent with that aspiration,” O’Connor said.

Once this phase of renovation wraps up in the fall, O’Connor said the greatest needs facing Science Hill will be upgrades to teaching labs and the $250 million Yale Biology Building. The University has begun developing a plan for the labs and is seeking faculty input in their planning, but still lacks funding to move ahead with the biology facility, he said.

Last summer, the University spent $16 million renovating 17 Hillhouse Ave., adding six new classrooms as well as research space for the Yale School of Engineering & Applied Science.

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