April 20, 2017
STEM I: 4 questions every parent has about the middle-school program
Brown’s STEM I program offers rising 7th and 8th graders the opportunity to spend two weeks immersed in the science, technology, engineering and math disciplines that they love. During their session, they’ll experience college life while living on the Brown campus and engaging with similarly-interested students from all over the world.
But while the academic benefits may be obvious, it’s not always an easy decision for a parent to send their middle-schooler away from home with unknowns like “Will they have fun?” and “How will they navigate a college campus?” swimming around in their head.
To dispel some of the most common concerns, Abbey Aevazelis, Associate Director of Brown Pre-College Programs and Director of STEM I and II Programs, answers four questions many parents have when considering Brown’s Pre-College STEM I program.
1.) My student has never been on their own. How will they keep track of their schedule and know where to go?
Your student will be assigned in a small group to a residential advisor (RA) who lives in their residence hall. This RA will be the primary point person for your student and will help keep them on schedule from the time they wake up and head to breakfast. Throughout the day, RAs facilitate the transition between the dining hall, classes, and afternoon activities. In the evenings, students take part in recreational activities with their peers and residential assistants. In past years, those activities have included laser tag, bowling and rock climbing. Overall, STEM I is a highly supervised and supportive environment with lots of personal attention given to each student.
2.) This will be a new social environment for my student. Will they have a hard time making friends?
When middle-schoolers arrive at STEM I, we are confident they will find themselves surrounded by a group of peers who are as academically talented as they are. Though students come from all over the country and around the world with a diverse set of backgrounds, they arrive at Brown with a common interest in the STEM disciplines. Outside of the classroom, peers get to know each other through activities designed to develop team-building and creative problem-solving skills. The environment here is collaborative and collegial and students leave having learned a lot from one another, their instructors and residential life staff. It is often reported back that our students form long-lasting friendships that continue when they get back home.
3.) My student has always excelled in the STEM disciplines. Will they find the STEM I courses challenging enough?
The program covers the same STEM-based concepts and processes taught to Brown undergraduates. Students will choose one or two disciplines to dive into and they’ll spend much of their time learning about these subjects from someone incredibly knowledgeable in that area, either a graduate student, postdoctoral candidate, or Pre-College instructor. Class time includes hands-on and lab experiences that showcase the content for the students in unique and thought-provoking ways. In addition to the academic course work, the STEM I program includes activities, research talks and field trips, as well as fun evening events. While courses are not graded, we find that students enjoy the comprehensive nature of the program and flourish through the discovery and meaningful learning opportunities that STEM I provides.
4.) My student has never been away from home for more than a night or two. What if they become homesick or feel like they don’t fit in/connect with others?
In our experience, most students adjust remarkably well, and very quickly, to being away from home. Students are surrounded by other students who are similar in terms of their academic talents, passion for learning, and interest in STEM topics and make friends almost immediately.
Additionally, the program is structured so that students are immersed in a well-planned schedule of activities that will keep them engaged and occupied, sometimes to the point that they forget to miss home.
Still, if they do ever feel homesick there are trained staff who will help them through the adjustment process. We also encourage regular communication between students and families, so that they feel connected to home during their visit.
Remember, it’s a team effort. We want families to let the staff know if their student is feeling lonely or missing home. It is the role of the RAs to help each and every student feel like they belong. Open communication allows us to discover, support and rectify any potential concerns your child is having in a timely manner.