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Accelerator expands to middle school

In 2014, the Accelerator summer program expanded NCSSM’s offerings beyond the borders of North Carolina for the first time, hosting rising 10th, 11th, and 12th grade students from around the world for courses ranging from biotechnology to rocketry. This summer, the program is expanding to include middle school students. Rising 7th-9th graders can engage in high-quality, innovative courses on unique STEM topics through Early Accelerator.

Middle-school courses include Computer Simulations and Modeling, Bones and Behavior: An Introduction to Anthropology, explorations in engineering, and more. “In the computer simulations course, each day will have a theme that will help the student understand how computing and mathematics are essential to science and the people doing science,” explains Jennifer Hill, NCSSM’s Summer Programs Coordinator. “We have another middle school course that gives students experience with all the sciences while discussing the History of Everything! Imagine all that would be possible for a 7th grader who is armed with a foundation of all the big ideas in science.”

The courses combine hands-on learning, digital tools, and experienced instructors — NCSSM’s proven educational model. Participants and their parents have recognized the quality of the program. “The program is highly hands-on and the facilities, materials, and instruction provided are the best in the state,” described a parent of a 2014 Accelerator student. “We actually get to clone!!!!!” wrote one participant in the 2014 Gene Targeting course.

“Our campus itself lends to the quality of our programs,” Hill says. “We are designed to meet the needs of students interacting with STEM topics. This program provides a safe learning environment and the structures and tools for students to expand themselves academically and socially.” This summer, students can look forward to working in the school’s new Fabrication Lab, both for courses in 3D printing, but also for student explorations outside of class.

The Accelerator program also leaves room for fun. “The number one comment from students who join us over the summer is that they are happy to have found peers among their age group,” says Hill. “We provide a space and the education and activities for a like-minded group of young people to come together, expand their knowledge, and have fun.” Participants live and learn on campus with other students, creating opportunities for group activities such as attending Durham Bulls baseball games, outdoor movie nights on campus, and student-organized activities like Ping-Pong tournaments and board game nights.

Hill and the rest of her team are excited to welcome the summer students, including middle schoolers. “This was a major goal of ours, to bring these younger students to our campus and provide them an experience that will influence them tremendously,” she says, “and provide them with new skills and direction and opportunities.”

Applications are now open. The first session of classes begins June 8, and courses will run through July 31. Early Accelerator courses consist of one week on campus, while Accelerator courses pair two weeks of online work with one week on campus. Applicants may choose a day-only option for either program.