Eagle Lab: A Closer Look

What Eagle Lab has – and hasn’t – accomplished in inaugural year at Jones


Daisy Conant '18

Freshman Ac Lab A2116 (right) spend their Eagle Lab writing letters to their future selves while senior Ac Lab A1807 (left) showed low turnout and were given a free period.

Jones is characterized by its continual pursuit for change in every facet of school functioning, whether it be students constantly forming new groups to address social issues, administration adjusting the schedule from year to year, or even security devising a new system to walk between buildings.

Add another thing to that growing list: Eagle Lab, a complete reworking of the Academic Lab system that has been met with both praise and disdain after its first nine months in operation.

Eagle Lab was proposed by the heads of each academic department at Jones as a way of fostering more of a “community” atmosphere amongst the student body and facilitating more awareness amongst the teachers and counselors of student issues. The department heads, with the full backing of the counseling department, pitched the idea to Principal P. Joseph Powers over the summer and received approval just in time to implement Eagle Lab into the 2017-2018 school year.

Students have now had to check in to Ac Lab at 3:05 p.m. each B day and stay within their classroom until 3:15 p.m. in order to listen to both announcements over the intercom and from their Ac Lab teachers. Instead of spending each B day that falls on a Friday as they choose, students are now required to stay within their Ac Lab classroom the entirety of the 45 minute period, engaging in differing group activities with their teacher and peers.

“I encouraged the creation of Eagle Lab for a number of reasons,” said former English department chair Brady Gunnink. “It allows us to shrink Ac Lab sizes, it creates a time and space where teachers can get to know their Ac Lab students and vice-versa, it offers a way to settle and reset the building as the day ends, and it gives us a space where we can do some targeted programing or messaging of conversations with our student about how to build community.”

Feedback to the new system has been mixed, but members of the Jones student body and staff do believe that having students congregate into a classroom for a set amount of time each Ac Lab is a more efficient way for the administration to distribute information to the students, such as sports games and wins, dates and times of school events, and general student activity announcements.

In terms of Friday Eagle Labs, students who support the system have said that they enjoyed the new time carved out into their usually packed schedule to relax and focus on something with their peers and teachers other than coursework.

“I like Eagle Labs as they are, it was a good idea,” said Steven Li ‘18. “I like the interactions between my peers and teachers – I usually talk about things going on in my life and plan my weekend.”

Teachers have found that within their freshman Ac Lab classes, there has been a notable impact on their abilities to address freshman needs.

“We moved to more practical things for ninth graders when finals came – we had a couple really productive sessions talking about what finals are like, talking through apprehensions that people have had, and some relaxation and stress managements techniques, and students responded well to that,” said Gunnink.

The counseling department, who supported Eagle Lab in its proposal, have also observed a benefit of Eagle Lab upon the entering classes.

“With the structure of Ac Lab, there’s a lot of work that can be done to see how we can make it look for students new to high school. [In terms of] what they need to do to be successful in the social emotional front, Eagle Lab is the way for us to go,” said counselor Brian Coleman. “I think after the first few months, [Eagle Lab] is a space for some great work to be done and the school community was more open to it that I thought they would be.”

However, not everyone has felt that Eagle Lab has accomplished what it set out to do. While the implementation of Eagle Lab did shrink Ac Labs, it displaced the sophomores, juniors, and seniors from the Ac Lab teachers and classmates they had spent the past one to three years with. Since September, most of the sentiment amongst those students towards Eagle Lab has been negative, with many mockingly nicknaming it “Feelings Friday”.

“I think that many students haven’t bought into it,” said Social Science Department co-chair Ryan Maggid. “When considering the fact that many teachers have not bought into it, it makes it very hard for students to buy into it. It’s probably a little easier for freshmen, because they know nothing else, but for upperclassmen they see it as their time getting taken away and that’s hard for many people to get involved and interested in.”

Students, mainly upperclassmen, feel that due to the lack of structure and lack of planning on the teachers’ part during Friday Eagle Lab, staying in the classroom for 45 minutes is pointless.

“It just feels like another time requirement put into our day that doesn’t do anything for us – usually I just read or draw,” said Emma Thelen ‘19. “A more creative use of the time would be more beneficial than just sitting around.”

The Social Science and Math departments have proposed changes to the activities students participate in during Eagle Lab, specifically suggesting that the new CPS Financial Education curriculum be taught during senior Eagle Lab time so teachers from those departments wouldn’t have to sacrifice weeks of coursework to teach them. So far, no action has been taken on the proposals.

However, the administration is planning on tweaking the content and structure going in to next year based on student and teacher responses.

“[Eagle Lab] is not going away but we tremendously value feedback – unless that feedback is get rid of it,” said Gunnink.