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Future Scientists Get A Taste
by Gilad Edelman | Sep 30, 2013 1:03 pm
Posted to: Schools, Science/ Medical
The scholars who packed Yale Commons by the hundreds to begin studying science at the university aren’t college science majors—yet. If the Yale Pathways to Science program succeeds, they soon will be.
Pathways, which draws on middle and high school students from the New Haven, West Haven, and Amity school districts, opened its 2013-2014 program Sunday afternoon with an orientation event for this year’s 283 new members. Throughout the school year, the kids will be invited to attend science-themed events including lectures, hands-on laboratory activities, and special visits to the Peabody Museum and the Leitner Planetarium. (Many of the events are open to the public.) They also can participate in a weeklong science camp at the Peabody next summer.
Students are invited to apply to the program based on recommendations from teachers or principals who believe they show potential for careers in science. Claudia Merson (pictured), the director of public school partnerships at Yale’s Office of New Haven and State Affairs, said that Pathways focuses as much on interest and curiosity as on aptitude.
“We’re not just looking for the kid who you know is going to be in A.P. physics,” she said. “It could also be the kid who takes apart the toaster just for fun.”
At the orientation, students and their parents sat at tables of ten for discussions led by volunteers from across the Yale science community—professors, grad students, and undergrads—as well as some New Haven public school teachers. The discussion topic: “Why is science important?”
The kids all agreed that it is, though they weren’t always sure specifically how.
“Anything in the world can be applied to some kind of science,” said Dana Joseph (at left in photo), a ninth-grader at Engineering and Science University Magnet School in New Haven. She said she wants to become a doctor when she grows up.
“Science teaches you about the world and helps you a lot in life,” said Maura Dowd (pictured), a sixth-grader at Carrigan Intermediate School in West Haven. She said science and math are her favorite subjects—even though, as her mother (at left in photo) said, those are the classes that she has to “work her butt off for.”
Pathways aims to turn that general enthusiasm into specific academic and career paths in what educators refer to as STEM: science, technology, engineering, and math. To that end, the program exposes students to contemporary research topics in a range of fields. This year’s events include “Brain Education Day,” featuring sheep brain dissection; an introduction to nanoengineering; and the “Girls’ Science Investigations” series, which focuses on motivating girls, who are often discouraged from pursuing math and science, to stay involved in those fields.
Students are “not necessarily doing cutting-edge science in our schools in Connecticut,” Merson said, pointing out that it takes a long time for a topic to make it into school curriculum. One goal of Pathways is to harness the resources of a major research university to expose kids to what their careers in science might actually look like.
Once the kids get to college, Merson said, the program seeks to place them in summer research internships.
“What we’re trying to do is inspire the next generation of scientists,” she said. “This is an event where we welcome them in as the youngest members of our science community.”
Tags: Pathways to science
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