Advanced Science Class Provides Research Opportunities

A new advanced research program provides students a unique opportunity to engage in research at a level usually not experienced before college.  

The program focuses on the STEM (Science Technology, Engineering and Math) field. According to the school’s web site, the new academic offering provides students with “a platform to engage in independent research within the fields of biological sciences, physical sciences, behavioral sciences, and engineering. Students with a deep interest in scientific discovery will have the ability to design and implement their own research projects throughout this year-long honors-level course.”

The program is led by Ms. Jill Walker, a science and math teacher whose official title is Director of the Advanced STEM Research Program. She believes that the STEM Research Project is a way to expand students’ scientific literacy and promotes extensive research for information.

“The goal of the class isn’t about the final answer to some research project, it’s about the process of giving students an open-ended project that they have to work through, like figuring out the background information or the questions that they have to ask, contacting scientists or engineers. It’s really about giving them the ability to follow a path toward something they’re interested in,” Walker said

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In the first trimester, students are researching and reading. They are finding and citing scientific papers and learning about their topics of interest. Ms. Walker has been assisting students find topics that they’re interested in, students are reading published papers, asking lots of questions and taking abundant notes about of the research projects being constructed.

Walker explained that there is a lot of flexibility in the course and provision is made for students in any STEM field as well as those curious on ways to expand and make use of  scientific apparatus in their project.

Georgia Bailey ’23 wanted to do a project on dehydration, so I said, ‘Let see what’s out there, let’s see if there is any cool equipment.’ There’s this meter that you stick on somebody’s tongue and it tells you if they’re hydrated or not. We were going around with the kids in the class practicing using this meter to make sure she knows how to use it and she’s using this as the basis for developing her project.”

STEM students gain a sense of independence as they formulate their own topics to work with and develop their projects. They develop communication skills, critical thinking, and perseverance in this course. Students often network to experts in their fields, utilize in-depth data to aid their projects, and learn to be patient to discard, change and edit their questions and projects to be more scientifically suitable.

Jacob Shain ’22 is enjoying his experience so far. “The best part is getting involved in research because a lot of high schools don’t offer that option, especially working with a doctor. It’s really a privilege,” Shain said.

Students are conducting many different projects, ranging from the effects of microplastic pollution to the study of human dehydration.

“I am studying the effects of microplastics, which are tiny pieces of plastic that pollute bodies of water, on Daphnia Magna, a type of tiny water crustacean. I will learn about how the combination of microplastics and herbicides affect creatures and plants in ecosystems,” explained Cilla Nee ‘22. 

Students in this program are graded based on their evident commitment to their project, the effort that they are putting towards answering the question their project is based on and the quality of their advanced research. 

“There is a lot of individuality and a lot of creativity with the class,” Ms. Walker said.

Students interested in Advanced STEM Research should speak with Ms. Walker or Academic Dean Ms. Carmichael to learn more about course requirements. 

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