Learning Labs debut at PHS

September, 2023
Meiya XiongLeila Guitton

This year, the PHS administration introduced Learning Labs, a supervised study environment during any free periods in freshmens’ schedule, including their P.E. free periods. The Learning Labs aim to help new students get acclimated to the high school schedule, workload, and environment and is held in the recently constructed New Wing.

“We really just want to support students [in] the transition [from middle school to high school]. As educators and as parents, we find that [it] can be challenging,” said PHS Assistant Principal Dr. Nicole Mantuano Lacsamana. “We're also providing [guidance on] … some of the soft skills that … are not explicitly taught in regular classes; anything that will help them be successful in high school.”

Improving safety at PHS is a priority this year as mentioned in this year’s strategic plan. As part of new safety measures, Learning Labs also provide supervision for freshmen during their free periods so that fewer students are unaccounted for during a given period.

“When an emergency happens, I [should] know where you are so I can confidently say to parents, ‘you’re safe in this field,’” said PHS Principal Cecilia Birge. “If you wander off during your free time, I can’t do that … Legally, you're getting yourself into trouble. You’re getting your parents into trouble. You’re getting all the teachers you love into trouble.”

All freshmen have at least one Learning Lab in the span of one schedule rotation, but Learning Labs can also be assigned to students in other grades to make up for excessive absences. While in their Learning Lab, students can do many of the things they normally would do during a free period, including catching up on homework, doing independent work, and scheduling meetings with teachers.

“We're not trying to micromanage, but we are taking attendance, [and] we are responsible for them. For the most part, students work on school-related work,” said PHS special education teacher Adiba Syed, a teacher of a Learning Lab.

The freshmen of PHS have found the Learning Labs quite helpful. Along with the transition to high school and a heavier workload, the Learning Labs provide them with an environment that’s both efficient and productive.

“Learning Labs are pretty helpful. …If [students] have work, they [can] focus on their work, but if they don't, then they can just spend time with their friends, [which is also] nice. Everyone's pretty nice and supportive,” said Ivy Cordle ’27.

While the Learning Lab is more monitored than a traditional free period, many freshmen still find that they have enough freedom, and at times, even too much.

“Because there is so much freedom, I found it very easy to waste the period socializing or otherwise procrastinating. The physical space, from its chairs to the layout of the tables, has been well designed to foster both student collaboration and individual productivity,” said Harry Dweck ‘27.

However, additional opportunities will also be offered in Learning Labs in the future, including lessons in note-taking, executive functioning, social-emotional learning, and cultural proficiency. Since Learning Labs are new this year, the administration and Social and Emotional Learning team are still determining how to organize these activities.

“I think it is actually doing a great job [so far] of supplementing classroom instruction,” said Syed. “Students are utilizing it [and] taking advantage of it to the utmost.”