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Students Erin Schneider and Ireland Daly worked in the new chemistry lab Jan. 20 at Duchesne High School in St. Charles. A Beyond Sunday grant from the Roman Catholic Foundation of Eastern Missouri helped the school update the chemistry lab and classroom for collaborative learning and improved safety.
Students Erin Schneider and Ireland Daly worked in the new chemistry lab Jan. 20 at Duchesne High School in St. Charles. A Beyond Sunday grant from the Roman Catholic Foundation of Eastern Missouri helped the school update the chemistry lab and classroom for collaborative learning and improved safety.
Photo Credit: Lisa Johnston

Chemistry lab, classroom update improves collaboration

Duchesne High uses Beyond Sunday grant to modernize facilities

Sara Oerding and Meg Lewis mixed chemicals in a lesson on diffusion of gasses. A change in colors showed that the ammonia gas moved.

Chemistry teacher Kris Witzel, right, instructed students Megan Wiseman and Kylie Knobbe as they worked in the new chemistry lab at Duchesne High School. The redesign of the chemistry lab makes better use of the space and makes it easier to talk back and forth while working on projects.
Photo Credits: Lisa Johnston
The high school juniors followed instructions using ammonium hydroxide, deionized water and phonolphthalein flawlessly in a newly renovated lab at Duchesne High School, then jointly completed worksheets.

A Beyond Sunday grant from the Roman Catholic Foundation of Eastern Missouri recently funded an update of the chemistry lab and adjacent classroom at Duchesne for better collaborative learning and improved safety.

Fritz Long, principal of Duchesne, said the renovation of the lab brought it up to current code. “The codes many years ago and the codes now are different,” he explained. “It makes sure everything is safe for the kids today.”

The redesign of the lab makes better use of the space, changing from students standing at a long table to rounded stations adjacent to sinks. “It’s easier for students to talk back and forth and work on the same project,” Long said.

Kris Witzel, a chemistry teacher at Duchesne and 1983 graduate of the school, said each station is designed for students to complete an activity in about 10 minutes, get their data and then go on to the next lab station.

Moving to the classroom next door, Witzel said “I’m a big believer in cooperative learning and group work. This setup is naturally conducive to my style of teaching.”

The classroom has new furniture that’s also designed to bring students together in groups. Witzel taught a lesson on pressure, using a balloon and a vacuum pump. She demonstrated that when pressure is less outside than inside, the balloon expanded. As pressure decreases, the particles get farther apart, Witzel told the class.

That led to a discussion about boiling water and why it takes much longer to cook spaghetti in a higher altitude such as in Denver than in St. Louis.

The grant is just one indication that Duchesne is a viable and strong school that’s making plans and updates for the future, Witzel said. Duchesne is a Catholic, co-ed college prep school in St. Charles that prepares young men and women by educating mind, body and spirit in an atmosphere of faith.

Junior Athena Valera-Barrios said the sinks in the renovated lab are more efficient and everything is more accessible. Electrical outlets are located along the stations, for example.

Ryley Struckhoff, a senior, said she appreciates the round stations in the lab which make it easier to work in a group. Fellow senior Claire Weber agreed, adding that “It’s a lot easier getting around and finding things. I like it because you can get down to doing the science rather than trying to navigate the room.”

She enjoys chemistry because it has a logical aspect and mixes in some math. “I like thinking through a problem. It has real-life applications to it,” she said.

Matthew Klotz, a junior, said he appreciates the lab because it allows for more hands-on experiments. “This way we can get more interactive,” he said. “That style of learning hits me better because I can learn with my hands instead of sitting there bored and not paying attention as much.”

Endowment distributions

• Development of a Standard Based Curriculum for Advanced Learners[ACE] Advanced LearningHoly Cross Academy Parishes: Annunciation, Our Lady of Providence, St. John Paul II, St. Michael the Archangel and Seven Holy Founders$20,000
• Technology for All Students of Christ, Prince of Peace Parish[ACE] Tech UpgradeChrist, Prince of Peace School and PSR$50,000
• Technology Implementation and Integration Phase 2[ACE] Tech UpgradeArchdiocesan Elementary Schools of the Archdiocese of St. Louis - Most Holy Trinity School and Academy, St. Cecilia School and Academy, and St. Louis Catholic Academy$50,000
• Enhancing SFA Student Outcomes with Increased Access to Technology[ACE] Tech UpgradeSt. Francis of Assisi School and PSR$25,000
• Middle School Math Lab[ACE] Lab / Makerspace / Media CenterSt. Peter Catholic School$17,500
• STREAM Lab[ACE] Lab / Makerspace / Media CenterHoly Spirit Catholic School$17,000
• Watch Cabrini Grow![ACE] Outdoors / EnvironmentSt. Frances Cabrini Academy$13,050
• Innovation Lab (STREAM Lab)[ACE] Lab / Makerspace / Media CenterSt. Clare of Assisi School$30,000
• Our Lady Catholic School Inspiration to Innovation - Learning by Design Center[ACE] Lab / Makerspace / Media CenterOur Lady Catholic School$71,373
• Guiding the Spiritual Scientists and Moral Makers of the Future[ACE] Lab / Makerspace / Media CenterImmaculate Conception School - Dardenne Prairie$70,000
• Chemistry Lab & Classroom — Update for Collaborative Learning and Improved Safety[ACE] Lab / Makerspace / Media CenterDuchesne High School$65,000
• Art Program Expansion[ACE] Art Program ExpansionRosati-Kain High School$38,681
• SPICE (Special People In Catholic Education)[TI] Advancement / EnrollmentSt. Peter Catholic School and PSR$1,000
• Embracing the Gift of Cultural, Racial, Religious and Economic Diversity in North County Catholic Schools[TI] Advancement / EnrollmentFederation of Catholic Schools. Blessed Teresa of Calcutta School, Holy Spirit School, Our Lady of Guadalupe School, Sacred Heart School-Florissant, St. Ann School-Normandy, All Saints Academy (St. Ferdinand Campus, St. Norbert Campus, St. Rose Philippine Duchesne Campus) Christ Light of Nations School, Trinity Catholic High School$50,000

Additionally, 23 Catholic parishes, schools and ministries will benefit from this year’s endowment fund distributions, which total $130,162. Those benefiting organizations are listed below, and you can read a bit more here:
https://rcfstl.org/impact/ foundation-distributes-130000-to-local-catholic-organizations/

• Ascension Catholic Church (Chesterfield)

• St. Anselm Parish (Creve Coeur)

• St. Ignatius Loyola Parish (Concord Hill)

• St. Margaret Mary Alacoque Parish (St. Louis)


• Bishop DuBourg High School (St. Louis)

• Duchesne High School (St. Charles)

• Rosati-Kain High School (St. Louis)

• St. Dominic High School (O’Fallon)

• St. Francis Borgia Regional High School (Washington)

• St. Francis Cabrini Academy (St. Louis)

• St. Joseph’s Academy (Frontenac)

• St. Louis University High School (St. Louis)

• St. Margaret Mary Alacoque School (St. Louis)

• St. Mary’s High School (St. Louis)

• St. Pius X High School (Festus)

• St. Robert Bellarmine School (St. Charles)


• Annual Catholic Appeal (Archdiocese of St. Louis)

• Kenrick-Glennon Seminary (St. Louis)

• Marygrove (Florissant)

• Pontifical Paul VI Institute (St. Louis)

• Roman Catholic Foundation (St. Louis)

• St. Vincent de Paul Conference of St. Matthias the Apostle (Lemay)

• Washington University Catholic Student Center (St. Louis)

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