UDC Hosts ‘Summer Bridge’ For High School Scientists

by Leslie Malone

SB 1In July, nearly 30 D.C. junior and senior high school students completed the Summer Bridge Program in Environment and Sustainability. Sponsored by the University of D.C., the program was a collaboration between the Center for 4-H and Youth Development and the Water Resources Research Institute, which are both programs of UDC’s College of Agriculture, Urban Sustainability and Environmental Sciences (CAUSES).

The Summer Bridge Program in Environment and Sustainability was designed to provide junior and senior high school students and incoming college students with interactive experience in laboratory analysis, field study and computer applications. This year’s Summer Bridge program was designed to encourage participation in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) disciplines among youth in the District of Columbia.

In China, more than 40 percent of all degrees awarded fall under the STEM umbrella, but in the U.S., just one in eight is a STEM degree, according to global management consulting firm Accenture:

STEM Degrees

In the U.S., 70% of students are not interested in STEM (Business-Higher Education Forum, 2011), and minority students are at even more of a disadvantage. UDC recognized the challenge, and thanks to a grant from the National Science Foundation, was able to develop the Summer Bridge Program in Environment and Sustainability.

“All children are naturally inquisitive and born to succeed. Our hands-on Summer Bridge Program in environmental science and sustainability focuses on learning, problem solving, discovery and team building to reignite this natural curiosity. This helps under-served students to succeed.”

Participating students were selected because of general interest in science, research and sustainability. The Summer Bridge program also gave students the opportunity to experience college life, giving them exposure to the lecture and research style of higher education.

Led by Dr. Tolessa Deksissa of UDC’s Water Resources Research Institute and taught by Drs. Lily Liang, Suzan Harkness and Pradeep Behera, the four-week Summer Bridge Program offered students a hands-on opportunity to research the world around them. Specific classes were:

1. Environmental and sustainability science (Taught by Dr. Tolessa Deksissa)
2. Mobile technologies (Taught by Dr. Suzan Harkness)
3. Cloud computing (Taught by Dr. Lily Liang)
4. Environmental computing (Taught by Tolessa Deksissa)
5. Engineering Design (Taught by Dr. Pradeep Behera)
6. Capstone project (Taught by Tolessa Deksissa)

Mondays through Thursdays from 9:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m., students focused on separate labs each week (environmental, technology and engineering) before spending the final week on their research project. The intensive program began with a morning demonstration/lecture followed by a hands-on class activity. After lunch, students had the chance to experience field work and visited various sites around D.C. followed by lab work.

“The classes were organized in such a way that a student will be able to complete a research project at the end using all skills learned,” explained Dr. Deksissa. “These are the skills students will need for college and beyond.”

At the end of the program, students presented a summary of their projects before an audience of peers, parents and UDC faculty and staff, demonstrating just how they embraced the challenge of questioning the world around them:

1. Comparing water quality of Rock Creek and the Potomac River (Read the final presentation (PDF download))
2. Comparing tap water quality in NW with SE
3. Comparing bottle water with tap water
4. Can we grow tomatoes in the rose garden?
5. Urban heat island on UDC campus
6. Water quality education video

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Addressing the students before handing out their certificates of completion, CAUSES Dean Sabine O’Hara said, “Discovery is a lifelong process, and you are learning to enjoy discovering new things. By questioning your perceived answers, you learned many new things. This kind of questioning and learning will help you to succeed anywhere.”

“It’s amazing to see the growth that these young students have shown during the course of the Summer Bridge Program. It is truly impressive,” said Rebecca Bankhead, 4-H Program Director and State Program Leader for the District.

Participating students were residents of D.C. Wards 1-8 and hailed from various schools around the District:

Bell Multicultural High School
Capital City Public Charter School
Cesar Chavez Public Charter High School
Columbia Heights Educational Campus
Dunbar High School
E.L. Haynes Public Charter School
McKinley Technology High School
Options Public Charter School
Perry Street Prep Public Charter School
School Without Walls
Sidwell Friends School
The Field School
The Katherine Thomas School
The SEED School of Washington, D.C.
Woodrow Wilson High School

The Center for 4-H and Youth Development creates innovative programs that emphasize experiential learning opportunities for young people and their families. Through hands-on interactive programming, participants develop life skills, leadership abilities, and an ethic of civic stewardship.

The Water Resources Research Institute provides the District of Columbia with interdisciplinary research support to identify D.C. water resource problems and contribute to their solution. The Institute supports collaborative research that engages not only faculty members and students, but also a broad array of stakeholders to address regional water issues in a holistic way.

The University of D.C. is expected to offer the program again in the summer of 2014.

Leslie Malone is the marketing and communications manager for UDC’s College of Agriculture, Urban Sustainability & Environmental Sciences (CAUSES). She can be contacted at leslie.malone@udc.edu.

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