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For four or five weeks during the summer, 350 sixth through ninth graders, age 11-16, fill college chemistry, physics and biology laboratories to do “hands-on” science group projects under the nurturing and watchful eyes of YSP Science Camp Advisors and Instructors. This four-component, extracurricular program targets students from underrepresented communities, who have consistently demonstrated advanced skills in science and/or math.

Component I (entering 7th grade):

Typically the YSP projects that sixth graders carry out are clearly more akin to what one would expect of junior or senior high school students. The general focus is Ecology, covering subjects such as pollution, water purification, and microbial life forms, through challenging laboratory experiments and field trips. They learn what pH is, how to measure it, and how to predict its influence on physiological systems. By isolating bacteria from rivers and pond water samples they collect themselves, they learn how to analyze their samples and to characterize them both morphologically and biochemically. They design, construct and use mazes to characterize quantitative learning in mice. By the end of the program, they have learned how to separate proteins such as hemoglobin both chromatographically and electrophoretically. Most importantly, they are provided the confidence to overcome the intimidation often associated with the “big words” and so called imposing concepts of the sciences. And, they have as ready resources some older brothers and sisters who will patiently work with them to acquire high level knowledge and skill in science. The teaching modules employed in this component are all put together by the medical and health professional students who serve as Advisors.

Component II (entering 8th grade):

Ornithology is the field of study for these students who will be armed with binoculars and diaries in active exploration of bird behaviors and habitats through classroom study, computer lab, and observational field trips. Seventh graders work with master high schools and college teachers to develop and hone their skills in two key areas: a) to perfect their ability to do scientific writing, to make compelling and precise verbal presentations of research results, and b) to use standard statistical measure (mean, mode, median, arithmetic and standard deviation) to analyze their research data. Component II students also receive instruction on test-taking strategies, study skills and the critical analysis of selected readings in the Read Smart Program sponsored by The Princeton Review.

Component III (entering 9th grade):

Eighth graders return to the program to spend five weeks to cast what they see in the mind's eye onto paper, into clay and Styrofoam. Pupils will learn line drawing and other artistic methods using their faces and hands, and skeletal models in YSP's unique Art course. Early scientists such as Imhotep and Leonardo da Vince are studied. YSPs complimentary Anatomy course investigates the various bones of the body, exercise techniques and bone/muscle related conditions and challenges. If before the summer's experience they could not draw a straight line, after five exacting and vigorous weeks with minority architecture and graphic design students , our YSP'ers are able to model to appropriate scale a futuristic newsstand, the mitral valve of a mammalian heart or a stereo-correct representation of a disaccharide.

Component IV (entering 10th grade):

This final frontier of YSP investigates medically related health and social issues that affect young people. The intensive Public Health curriculum will include visits by health professionals, field trips to medical facilities and rehabilitative organizations, as well as opportunities to meet people who have survived traumatic injuries and others that live with physical challenges. Moreover, our Ethics course allows pupils to debate medical dilemmas and their associated effects and to express their thoughts through weekly journal writing and discussion groups.

From October through mid-March, thousands of Chicago elementary and high school students work at putting together science fair projects. Overwhelmingly, these projects tend to be of the “show and tell” variety, often consisting of no more than clippings from Scientific American, Psychology Today, or other publications. Although such projects usually have little or no real scientific value, students who devote time and attention to these projects should not be faulted, for they want desperately to do science. However, given the paucity of available resources and science-knowledgeable teachers, there just isn't any way for them to do really good science.

CAHMCP pre-college students, on the other hand, always have ready access to science competent consultants and advisors. They can always get to a phase contrast microscope, pH meter, colorimeter, thin-layer or column chromatographic setup, or VAX computer needed to query some original question in science. Indeed, the first line of help almost always comes from our medical and other health professional students based in the Chicago area whom CAHMCP hires to provide expert consultation to an assigned caseload of younger students. Basic science and clinical researchers at the seven medical schools who form the CAHMCP consortium eagerly open the doors of their labs and libraries.

Every YSP participant and his/her parent is required to sign a pledge to participate in science fair competition. If students fail to live up to this commitment, they are suspended or dismissed from the program. CAHMCP takes a hard-line with regard to this particular policy because over the course of its existence, we have observed a remarkably tight correlation between performing well in science fair competitions and going on to earn the doctorate in science or the health professions—much tighter, indeed, than the comparable association of classroom grades and/or scored on standardized student achievement tests.

Applications are accepted after review of application and supporting documents or after pre-screening and recommendation of science teachers from YSP “adopted” schools. This relationship with our “adopted” school is symbiotic. YSP will offer intense support and guidance for its students throughout the science fair process, a responsibility typically left to their respective schools and parents. YSP gladly provides science fair judges for schools in its adoption network. Our “adopted” schools are primarily from the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) system. However, Southwood Junior High in Country Club Hills has been a strong participant over the years. The CPS adoptees are Clissold, Sutherland, Kellog, Lemart, Keller, Morgan Park, Kenwood, Whitney Young, Poe, McDade, Black, Pershing, Dixon, Beasley and the Gifted Office of CPS.

 

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