Class Research Earns Awards for LBHS, Teacher

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Students make the most of their 59-minute lab time in a Laguna Beach High advanced chemical research class to conduct experiments that could lead to the invention of a sensor that instantly calibrates bacteria counts in water.

Such cutting-edge experiments and opening enrollment of a chemistry class to students of all levels earned the campus a 2017 Gold Ribbon Award from state education officials last week.

LBHS was among 275 middle and high schools selected for recognition by state education officials, which single out schools that lead in educational excellence. The Gold Ribbon program replaces the California Distinguished Schools program, which recognized exemplary schools. LBHS earned the Distinguished School designation in 2013.

LBHS featured its chemistry program in the category of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Its Advanced Chemical Research and Blended Chemistry class are deemed model science programs that other schools could replicate, a criteria considered for the award as well, says a district statement.

Ryan Meisberger, 18, adds a solution in an experiment using phenylalanine
Ryan Meisberger, 18, adds a solution in an experiment using phenylalanine

Here’s a sample of what went on Wednesday in the Blended Chemistry class. A team of three conducted an experiment on whether plants molecules could prevent infection: Timothee Galmiche, 17, said he enjoyed extracting caffeine from a diet soda; Autumn Geil, 18, expects to attend MIT and major in chemical engineering and eventually pursue pharmaceutical research; and Ryan Meisberger, 18, aims for aerospace engineering at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and a dream job for Space-X.

Another student, Sydney Mangus, 16, said she plans on pursuing a business degree, but wanted to check out the chemistry class without the pressure of a higher level Advanced Placement class.

Amy You, 16, popped in the ACR class to submit her rationale for wanting to enroll in the class to teacher Steve Sogo. She says she was impressed by a river water purification system developed by students last year that was used in a village in Kenya. “This is the best class to do this type of research,” said You, who will be a senior next year.

Sogo, who also chairs the school’s science department, said he pushed for 15 years to get the Blended Chemistry class approved because he could see the interest of students who were lower classmen and previously ineligible. He believes students can learn the concepts if they see chemistry applied to real life problem solving.

“We strive to extend the bounds on human understanding,” said Sogo, a 26-year chemistry teacher, who last month was one of three teachers in the country to receive a STEM Educator Award. He was also recipient in 2013.


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