Chemistry Class at Molly’s Apothecary

Every Montrose student enrolls in inquiry-based lab science, in which hands-on experiments happen regularly. Students also witness real-world applications of what they encounter in the lab during unique field trips that illuminate the “how” and “why” of their coursework.
Science Chair Monica Baker, a chemical engineer by training, knew when she started teaching Chemistry at Montrose that she wanted to visit a lab where her students could see real-life applications of the concepts they were studying and testing in labs. When she heard that the cosmetics company she usually takes the 10th grade class for their annual field trip wasn’t open to visitors due to Covid restrictions, Baker was undeterred. “I just cold-called a bunch of different local companies, and Molly’s Apothecary got back to me saying that they’d love to have us,” she said. With that, Baker and the entire Montrose 10th grade set off for Molly’s, a cosmetic products manufacturer in Medway. Established in 2006, Molly’s is a family business run by two sisters, Ann and Margaret, who named the apothecary after their mother, Molly. 

“The girls loved it. They got to see how soap and lotion are made, and the owner, Ann, talked about saponification, acids and bases, and emulsification,” said Baker. Saponification, Baker explained, is the process of making soap: when oils and fats are combined with a caustic material like lye, in the right quantities, they turn into soap. Ann and her staff went over the safety factors involved in running a lab, which underscored the safety measures that Baker’s students follow in the chemistry lab at Montrose. Baker also asked Ann to talk with the girls about what it’s like to run a female-owned business, which helped them envision not only the possibility of becoming a chemist, but also that of owning a business someday. Baker says the staff at Molly’s were impressed by the maturity of the Montrose students, and the caliber of questions they asked. Baker hopes the partnership with Molly’s will continue for years to come, especially after overhearing some of the girls say, “This was the best field trip ever!”