- Unlike most highs school students, Marlon Blake has had his
eye on a career in science for some time. In fact, a job in meteorology
has been on his radar since he was just 12-years old.
to start out as a meteorologist," Blake said, pointing to a
satellite photo showing the eye of a swirling hurricane. "Then
I want to become a hurricane hunter."
Blake, a sophomore
from Hattiesburg High, was one of 20 students from the Hattiesburg/Petal
school districts participating in a science career fair at The University
of Southern Mississippi on Friday. The students and five high school
teachers are part of a six-week summer SCIENCE/Literacy program
funded by the National Science Foundation. Upon completion of the
course, students receive $1,000.
declining enrollment of high school students in the science areas
has become a critical national concern," said Dr. Dana Thames,
chair of the Southern Miss Department of Curriculum and Instruction.
of this program are to provide hands-on, individualized and critical-
thinking instruction to high school students in an effort to promote
interest, encouragement, appreciation, and improved confidence toward
six-week course is research intensive, offering ample time for laboratory
projects, it also focuses heavily on science literacy. Each morning,
students begin the day by reading scientific articles and then applying
those concepts in experiments throughout the day.
of that practical application was a laboratory experiment that required
the students to make applesauce out of crackers and other common
ingredients. "We added crème of tartar, cinnamon, water
and some other stuff and heated it up. It wasn't perfect, but it
tasted OK," said Jacob Kitchens, 18, a recent graduate of Petal
High School who is considering a career in fire science.
Dr. Sarah Morgan,
a polymer science professor at Southern Miss, said getting students
involved in science early is important. "The premise is that
if kids have hands-on experience in the labs, they'll get interested
in careers in science and technology fields."
students in the laboratory settings and improving the pipeline that
moves students from high school science classes to college are essential
by-products of this program, Thames said. The program focuses mainly
on chemistry and polymer science, but also incorporates physics,
biology, math and other disciplines.
a biology and chemistry teacher from Hancock High School, participated
in the program for the first time this summer, working with students
in the morning and then doing research projects with Dr. Morgan
in the afternoon. McWright said the course shows students how science
affects almost every area of life. "Not a lot of students realize
how things like polymer science apply to them, but this program
really gets them excited about science," she said.
of the Southern Miss administration, including President Dr. Shelby
Thames and Gulf Coast Provost Dr. Jay Grimes, took time out Friday
to attend the science career fair. Standing in front of backdrops
with photos, figures and information, students presented their research
on all aspects of their chosen scientific profession.
is good because it prepares them for their field and what they're
going to encounter as a professional," said Grimes, whose own
research background is in marine science. "If they go to a
meeting, or share reports, talking about science is part of the
A polymer scientist
himself, President Thames mingled with the students and talked to
them enthusiastically about their science projects. "So many
things have changed in science in the last 5-15 years," President
Thames said. "Without contemporary programs like this, some
students would never know what options are out there."
In its first
summer, the program seemed to be achieving its primary goal: interesting
students about science.
who teaches plastics and polymer science applications courses at
Petal, said during the course of the program, a couple of students
approached him about changing their fall schedules to fit into his
classes. "We're already reaping the benefits," he said.