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STEM partnership creates unique experience for students

This article is from a pair of STEM educators who presented at last month's Bridging the Gap conference.

There aren’t enough young people who want to be scientists and engineers. The U.S. Department of Education estimates that only 16 percent of American high school seniors are proficient in mathematics and interested in a career based on science, technology, engineering, and math.

An unlikely partnership hopes to change that.

The Canterbury Summer Science Academy, in partnership with the Joint School of Nanoscience and Nanoengineering (JSNN), offers a highly academic, research-based science experience to the brightest and most enthusiastic students in Guilford County, exposing them to STEM education and research, and inspiring them to pursue STEM careers.

The first week-long STEM experience took place in the summer of 2015 to 14 rising 9th graders in Guilford County Schools. The free program focused on using the scientific method in hydroponics, one of Dr. Daniel Herr’s focuses at JSNN. Students developed an experiment using hydroponically grown basil, recorded data every day, organized and analyzed their data, and presented their findings to an audience of scientists and family at the end of the week.

Students began each day at Canterbury School in its new Science and Technology Center where they learned broad scientific knowledge, skills, and practices using hands-on projects. Each afternoon was spent at the JSNN Building at the Gateway University Research Park on East Lee Street where they worked in state-of-the-art labs with graduate students on their own research questions and problems.

“Schools of all types need to join together to share learning and resources,” said Middle School Director Dave Skeen. “This partnership uses the best of each school. Canterbury offers expertise in educating adolescents and the facilities in our new Science and Technology Center. JSNN brings world-renowned professors, graduate students, and research projects. Together, we can enrich education for students who might not otherwise have the opportunity for a summer science program.”

The goal of the project is to nurture students’ love of science through their high school years and produce a group of scientific-minded citizens who continue in a STEM post-secondary education and ultimately pursue a career in the sciences. The connections these students make with the professors, teachers, and graduate students will hopefully follow them into college and beyond.

Jacob McClinton, a student who attended the camp, wrote a letter to the editor for the News & Record. In it, he said:

“The camp reconfirmed my passion in science. I had an amazing time, being around students as interested in the field as I am, and would suggest the camp to anyone who is interested in learning in general.”

The students who attended the camp this year will return for a summer experience every year for the next three years. A new group of 9th graders will be added every year, so that by 2018, there will be four different, one-week, science academies for students in 9th, 10th, 11th, and 12th grades. Themes and projects will change every summer based on the work being done at JSNN. The first two years of the Summer Science Academy have been funded with a grant from a Canterbury supporter. Future summers will be funded through donations and grants.

Nicole Schutt

Nicole Schutt is a middle school science teacher at Canterbury School in Greensboro and the lead teacher of Canterbury Summer Science Academy.

Dr. Daniel Herr

Dr. Daniel Herr is a professor and the Nanoscience Department Chair at the Joint School of Nanoscience and Nanoengineering, a collaborative project of NC A&T University and UNC Greensboro. He is passionate about catalyzing interest in STEM related education and communicating science to the community.