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Science and Math Academy students keep their brains in high gear over the summer months

By Seth Leonard
sleonard@salisburypost.com
Students from around Rowan County are taking advantage of some extra education this summer.
The Science and Math Academy at Salisbury High School is the brain child of the principal, Dr. Windsor Eagle. The idea is to give kids extra enrichment in math and science. Things like chemistry lab experiments, egg drop competitions and advanced math courses help keep students sharp during vacation.
“I think the biggest advantage for them is that they meet some of the teachers before they get here,” said Jennifer Wooten, swim coach and math teacher.
The program allows rising ninth-graders a chance to see inside Salisbury High School, something that can help ease the transition from middle school.
For rising seventh- and eighth- graders, as well as students bound for schools other than Salisbury High, the program keeps academic interest stirred during the sometimes stagnant summer months.
Now in its second year, the Science and Math Academy hosts 146 students from every public middle school in the county, as well as most of the private schools.
Originally, the program was provided at no cost to children. Enrollment jumped 40 percent from last year, so a $25 fee became the compromise. Funding comes from private donations.
Regardless of the cost, the value of the experience is substantial.
Students receive two weeks of small-size classes designed to pique their interest in advanced math and applied science. Students in the seventh grade group are introduced to algebraic concepts that some won’t see until high school.
James “Chip” Cook heads up chemistry instruction for the program. A teacher of AP physics and AP chemistry, Cook has been recognized before as the American Chemistry Society’s Instructor of the Year.
He uses the whole week to build understanding. Students this July began the week by using plastic models to compare DNA. By the end of the week they will use real enzymes to isolate and extract microscopic DNA from strawberries.
Earlier they created aspirin that was within 1 percent of the purity of Bayer’s professionally made product.
“Students can come in, not be overwhelmed, but be challenged,” Cook said.
He described the advantage these kids will have as a “tremendous jump.” Understanding the scientific method and basic laboratory procedures is a necessary base for any research-related field.
School in summer can be synonymous with sad days, but the students showing up at Salisbury High this summer don’t view it as a bummer.
“I like it,” said Hannah Elmore. “It’s fun, but at the same time you learn how to do something else.”
Elmore, 12, said it’s too early to know what she wants to do, but she does enjoy math and may consider playing volleyball at Davidson College.
Eagle stressed that the program is open to all who wish to attend.
“We serve Rowan County,” he said.
Joining is simple, but based on a deadline. To be accepted for the 2010 session, students need to turn in an application by late March. Students also need a mid-year report card and a B average in both science and math. Applications are in Salisbury High School’s main office.

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