Rising high school students get hands-on science, math lessons at WFU this summer

While most 13- and 14-year-olds are hanging out by the pool or headed to visit relatives in the month of June, a group of about 60 rising Forsyth County high school freshmen are preparing to spend two weeks at Wake Forest University learning about science and math.

The two-week SciMax Student Enrichment Institute kicks off its second summer at Wake Forest at 8:45 a.m. June 9. The program, funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation and organized in partnership by Wake Forest and the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools, is designed to prepare students for the rigors of high school science and math courses, while also increasing their enjoyment of science and math.

“One of the great things about this program is that we use exciting activities that get the students engaged,” said Angela King, senior lecturer in chemistry at Wake Forest and director of the program. “The students get excited about the activities they do, while they are learning the principles behind the activities and they are gaining academic skills that will serve them in all of their classes in high school. Learning how to collect data in an organized fashion will help them approach all of their classes in high school with improved organization skills.”

The students will meet for six hours each day and participate in a variety of experiments led by four local high school teachers. The experiments include math projects like modeling population growth using statistics gathered from a bag of Skittles candy and a project that uses Barbie and G.I. Joe dolls to teach students how to scale the measurements of the dolls to human size.

Students in the enrichment institute will also design, construct and launch a hot air balloon made out of tissue paper. One of the most popular activities during the two-week program, King says, is a project that allows students to design their own experiments to test the behavior of Madagascar hissing cockroaches.

“The roaches are extremely safe, but they are about four inches long and they do make this hissing sound,” King said. “The kids are asked to determine several things like do the cockroaches prefer higher or lower altitudes, dark or light, or wet or dry conditions. The kids get experience designing their own experiments and collecting data. Initially, the students are freaked out, the girls are screaming and none of them want to touch the cockroach, but by the end of the experiment they think it’s really cool.”

During the program, students will participate in daily career sessions with guest lecturers engaged in careers that relate to science and math. A few of the guest lecturers include a crime scene investigator, an engineer, a medicinal chemist, a patent law expert and faculty members from Wake Forest.

Note to Editors: To arrange coverage of the SciMax Student Enrichment Institute or to interview Angela King or other program participants, please contact Jacob McConnico at 336-758-5237 or mcconnjn@nullwfu.edu.

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