Area Middle School Students Do Science the Hampshire Way
On Friday, November 21, at Hampshire College, 120 young scientists from Holyoke, Springfield, Amherst, and Pioneer Valley Performing Arts schools built rockets, extracted DNA from cheek cells, conducted chemistry experiments, and created their own lotions.
Day in the Lab, now in its 23rd year, was created at Hampshire in response to research indicating that students often lose interest in the sciences during the middle school years. Day in the Lab is especially critical in the current educational climate of scarce resources and budget cutbacks: It gives urban students a rare opportunity to work with college students in a resource-rich science environment that provides a variety of hands-on learning experiences.
Workshops are designed and facilitated each year by Hampshire students, faculty, and staff working in the sciences. Leaders choose workshop topics based on their individual interests and expertise, and base them on the same principles as introductory science courses at Hampshire College. The workshops are designed to develop inquiry skills by motivating students to ask questions and by encouraging them to take an active role in their own learning.
The intention of Day in the Lab is to empower young people to see that science is an exploration of the world around them, and that becoming a scientist is well within their grasp as a career choice. In giving these students access to advanced scientific equipment, student mentors, science faculty, and hands-on activities designed to get students asking questions and thinking critically, this unique event has the potential to impact not only student excitement about science, but their achievement in it as well.
The program provides a fun, engaging environment for middle school students to enjoy learning science—while working alongside Hampshire faculty, students, and staff. By offering urban students exposure to a wide range of scientific topics and styles of learning, Hampshire hopes that they will be encouraged to continue actively participating in science throughout their education.