Science display at ESH encourages new growth
Throughout Earl Shapiro Hall, it is rare to find a single space without some celebration of the N–2 community’s curiosity, creativity, and joy. The same is true for the front lobby, where visitors barely get inside the door before seeing a unique science display. Called the Needlman table, this rotating, interactive exhibit is often surrounded by children and their families, drawn in by the magic of discovery and exploration.
The history of the Needlman table, as with so many Lab traditions, stretches back further than one would think. Teacher emeritus Gloria Needlman joined Lab’s Nursery faculty in the 1960s, quickly becoming beloved by her students for her classroom pets and socially conscious lessons. Throughout her 33 years at Lab, Needlman developed what she called the Science Table, a hexagonal space on the Historic Campus with rotating displays of activities and experiments, some of which were on loan from the Field Museum. Students and parents alike stopped by the table to examine animal skeletons and feathers or create shadow puppets in colored lights.
Needlman’s dedication and perseverance lives on in the Lab teachers who have recently resurrected the table. N–2 Teacher and Science Coordinator Luciana Taschini admits the project has encountered unforeseen challenges in recent years, forcing her “to think creatively about how to approach, due to Covid restrictions.” New technology has helped fill the gap, as Taschni “started by using the interactive screen to display photos of science happening in different classrooms this school year.” Not only does the screen celebrate the scientific accomplishments of classrooms around ESH, but it also encourages visitors to look more closely at the display in front of them.
The current display celebrates the spring planting season, giving students the chance to look at the seeds of various plants and observe them as they grow. It is also playing a role in growing excitement for the return of rooftop garden boxes at ESH. There are no homework assignments or step-by-step instructions at the Needlman table; only open-ended questions that encourage visitors to explore their own curiosities. One question in particular is excellent advice for anyone visiting the vibrant ESH community: “Look closely—what do you see?”