Union High School’s upper floor lost a large closet this summer but gained an academic springboard, one which will help teachers make textbook-dry subjects jump off the page.

The science section of UHS’ top floor was dramatically renovated. A lab was expanded and filled with modern new equipment and a kitchenette was built as part of this process.

“It is hard to imagine the transformation. It has been astounding,” said UHS science teacher Greg Poor.

The kitchenette was built where a large closet previously was. It features cabinets, two refrigerators, a sink and a microwave oven. The students using the kitchenette include those in agriculture and food science classes. It will be used to help students learn about subjects such as food preparation and analysis.

One refrigerator is for food that will be consumed and the other is for science experiments.

The lab’s features include state-of-the-art equipment such as natural gas lines, which many mobile metal tables have direct access to, new sinks, more technologically up-to-date science equipment, tools for making T-shirts with logos and much more.

The new lab replaced an old one in the same place that had outdated equipment and was significantly smaller than the one now in place.

The new lab has logo making equipment for T-shirts, which will be used for student math projects, said Carol Wyatt, a math coach and personal finance teacher at UHS. Wyatt said students will be making and selling T-shirts, and operating this business will be an excellent way to see how algebraic equations can be applied to real-life profit and loss situations.

“This will help students see how math is related to the real world,” Wyatt said.

The educator said students sometimes find numbers and math uninteresting until they see its use outside the classroom.

Wyatt said she has never heard a student say $20 is not important, but has heard students say math is not important. Many students tend to feel this way about the subject until they see how math applies to finances, said Wyatt, who as a math coach advises teachers on techniques and strategies to use.

Wyatt said that later this year educators will begin conducting math tutoring sessions in the new lab, which would be open to all UHS students.

The renovations cost about $60,000, work paid with Measure 98 funds, said Union School District Deputy Clerk Mendy Clark. Oregon voters passed Measure 98 in 2016 in an effort to boost graduation rates. It requires the state to provide additional funding to school districts for programs such as career-technical education.

Union School District Superintendent Carter Wells said the renovated facilities tie in with the district’s commitment to Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) and Career Technology Education programs the state is placing its focus on. He said he is delighted with how students are responding to the new facilities now that the school year has begun.

“It is energizing them,” he said.

Wyatt said that the renovated facilities are sending an important message to students.

“It reminds them of how much education is valued,” the educator said.