Lighting Up the Laboratory

Science teachers fill their classrooms with glowing holiday decor as a special time of year approaches.

Garlands%2C+lights%2C+and+baubles+occupy+the+ceiling+of+science+teacher+Mr.+Scott+Thorpe%27s+room.

Essy Ingram

Garlands, lights, and baubles occupy the ceiling of science teacher Mr. Scott Thorpe’s room.

This is senior Halei Anderson’s second year as a teacher’s aide for biology teacher Mr. Brian Bitney. When Mr. Bitney was quarantined immediately following Thanksgiving break, he asked Anderson and his other TAs to help around the classroom while he was gone; however, a few of his requests were less than commonplace: he insisted on having the room decorated for the holidays.

“Bitney had messaged me on Remind when he was quarantined and asked me to turn the [Christmas] lights on,” Anderson said. “He thought it would give everyone just a little bit of joy.”

This show-must-go-on attitude is characteristic of the educator, especially regarding the state of his classroom when the holidays are near. Since the year he began teaching, Mr. Bitney would decorate his room for the holidays. A lot of the motivation to decorate stems from his students.

“I really just started doing it because I know that during the winter, a lot of people start to feel blah about school,” Mr. Bitney explained. “I thought that having the lights would make it feel more like home.”

A witness to the rather dreary season, Anderson understands the struggle. Quite literally adding brightness to students’ days can go a long way.

“I feel like it just lifts everyone’s spirits at this long and exhausting time of the year,” Anderson said.

Pullquote Photo

I thought that having the lights would make it feel more like home.”

— Mr. Brian Bitney

Zoology and Human Anatomy/Physiology teacher Mr. Patrick Reed is also known for decking out his room for the holidays. During this time of year, Mr. Reed’s lab closely resembles Santa’s workshop, if Santa was an unorthodox science teacher. After 20 years of decorating, he has amassed an impressive collection of lights, baubles, and objects that are holiday themed while simultaneously exuding anatomical notes. In front of his desk sits a glass curio full of brightly colored string lights, woven between the jars of liquid that suspend various severed animal parts inside – one of Mr. Reed’s favorite room pieces.

“Having pretty lights that glow off of the various fluids that are in a cabinet full of dead animals…that just amuses me,” Mr. Reed said.

From inside the room, hundreds of miniscule details create an intricate display. After a few minutes of gazing, one can confidently conclude that the man behind the decor has a bizarre sense of humor.

“This [room] is doing its own thing… The class is spelled out in lights, it’s got a muscular leg lamp, it’s got weird wigs on with Dora hats and weird cabinets of dead animals. I mean, what? This room is bizarre,” Mr. Reed explained.

The abundance of lights scattered over and around the labspace begs one question in particular: where did they all come from?

Many of these lights are remnants of a prank from years past. While Mr. Reed coached the girls’ tennis team, the ladies made an annual prank tradition. In late September one year, the girls decided to bring Christmas early to Mr. Reed’s house, in full force.

“They used extension cords, and they used outside plugs, and they decorated the trees and the house and they put wreaths up and Christmas cards [were] taped to the door. It was intense,” Mr. Reed said. “The year after that, they put a garage sale in my front yard.”

In the case of both Mr. Reed and Mr. Bitney, the overflow of decor requires many sets of hands to be properly arranged. In past years, Mr. Reed hosted decorating parties for any of his students to participate in, an exciting event that was cancelled due to COVID-19 measures. This year especially, he relied on his TAs to make the magic possible. For Mr. Bitney, the bulk of the decorating was completed by all eight of his TAs.

“I have the best TAs,” Mr. Bitney said, gushing. “Not only are they smart and kind but they also work really hard and I think they also see the value in having some spirit and joy during the holidays.”