Jane Powel served as education manager of the DNA Learning Center at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory under Nobel Laureate James D. Watson during his collaboration on the Human Genome Project. This summer she is teaching the future scientist program at Portledge School in Locust Valley. It is a top tier laboratory course that conducts experiments in each of the scientific disciplines: biology, chemistry, physics, earth and space and engineering.
It doesn’t sound much like summer camp, but that’s the point. Melissa Worth, director of Portledge summer adventures, said that the response to this course has been overwhelming.
“This program bridges the gap between fun science for kids and the advanced science courses many older students pursue as juniors and seniors in high school,” Worth said. “There is a big demand for summer programs with more in-depth learning targeted at this tween age group, who have graduated out of our other programs.”
That’s good news, considering that the U.S. Department of Labor claims that of the 20 fastest growing occupations projected in 2014, 15 of them require significant mathematics or science preparation.
“If our programs are a fun introduction to science, students may be more likely to explore those courses in school,” Worth said.
That may be what Portledge is counting on. The school has plans to expand the science curriculum electives in the coming year to include the same type of experiential learning that engages students during the summer.
Until then, summer adventures provides plenty of STEM offerings for students in the 11- to 15-year-old age group: junior engineering, physics lab or build your own computer are intensive versions of the ever-popular summer adventures science favorites like space and rocketry, science and cooking, go wild and CSI and spies.
“We are proud to offer a variety of programs along a spectrum of age groups – from sports to computers, art, science and drama to build on childrens’ curiosity and passion,” Worth said.