Hot new summer academy makes math, science cool

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

By Sarah Nagem
Eleven-year-old Daioosha Williams watched her egg experiment parachute down from a third-story window at Salisbury High School Friday afternoon.
The rising seventh-grader at Knox Middle School peered down to the asphalt below, hoping she had sufficiently cradled the egg in cotton balls.
Apparently, she hadn’t.
“Oh!” she exclaimed when her fellow students on the ground told her the egg didn’t survive the drop.
She and her partner, Ismael Villanueva, another 11-year-old seventh-grader at Knox, had spent the morning taping cotton balls and a three-gram weight to a Dixie cup to hold the egg.
They used drinking straws and a piece of a garbage bag to create a makeshift parachute.
“I think the problem was we didn’t have enough stuff to protect it,” Williams said.
The egg drop was the final activity of the first two-week session of a science and math academy at Salisbury High. The program, which began this year, is for rising seventh, eighth- and ninth-graders.
Another two-week session starts Monday. Dr. Windsor Eagle, principal at Salisbury High, said student response to the program has been great.
“I think there’s more need for math and science education,” Eagle said.
This spring, the Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education gave Eagle the go-ahead to create a summer academy focusing on those subjects. A full-time science and math academy will debut at Salisbury when fall classes begin.
Eagle had planned to accept no more than 40 students to the summer program. But 110 applied.
So he increased the summer academy staff from two to four, and 103 students are participating.
Every middle school in the county is represented and so are most of the county’s private schools, Eagle said.
In the first session, students spent their mornings engrossed in environmental and physical science, as well as geometry and physics.
That’s not exactly many kids’ idea of summer fun.
But the students, like 11-year-old Samantha Washko, said they had a good time.
“I really liked all the cool experiments in science,” said Washko, a rising seventh-grader at Salisbury Academy.
They built boats out of Styrofoam and garbage bags. They played the role of crime-scene investigators when they learned how police can solve crimes by matching plant matter on suspects’ shoes to plants at a crime scene.
For J.T. Bost, a science teacher at Salisbury High who is teaching math at the summer academy, seeing kids eager to learn is priceless.
“I’ve had a great week with these kids,” Bost said Friday. “They’re so inquisitive and excited about learning.
“How many kids are excited to get up in the morning to learn about the Pythagorean theorem?”
Khalid Sturdivant is one.
The 12-year-old North Rowan Middle School student loves anything to do with numbers.
“My favorite subjects are math and science,” Sturdivant said.
Encouraging students to focus on these subjects will help prepare them for the local workforce, said Benjamin Wooten, a science teacher at Salisbury High. Wooten helped write the curriculum for the summer academy.
“I think the more science exposure we can give them … the more job opportunities they will have later in life,” Wooten said.
Eagle hopes the summer academy will become an annual fixture for the school system.
Salisbury High is the first school in the county to adopt a science and math focus. He’s telling kids in the summer program to ask their school principals for more science and math classes if they don’t think they have enough.
Or students who don’t live in the Salisbury school district can choose to attend Salisbury High for the regular academy.
An extra incentive is the promise of scholarships to Catawba College for students with good grades.
“The idea is to promote science and math in Rowan-Salisbury schools,” Eagle said.