Accelerator will expand to a second campus this summer, serving even more students in its fourth season.
Now in its fourth season, NCSSM’s Summer Accelerator continues to grow. This year, the program is expanding to a second campus in Brevard, NC, bringing new scenery and fresh opportunities for learning.
“Our mission is to provide access to as many students as possible, and we’d expanded beyond our capacity here [in Durham],” explained Jen Hill, the program’s coordinator. That was part of the motivation for finding a second location.
Another was new course options. Brevard, in western North Carolina, is about 20 miles from the Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute (PARI), a site originally developed by NASA that is now one of the world’s largest collectors of astronomical research data. “They’ll let our students have access to their satellite center and research. Our instructors jumped at it,” said Hill.
The result will be courses like “Radio Telescope Astronomy and Cosmic Waves” and “Life, the Cosmos, and Everything: Big History.” Classes will take place at Brevard College, a small, liberal arts college where students will stay, with visits to PARI and other sites.
The Summer Accelerator program is a series of innovative STEM courses for students from all over the world. Early Accelerator, open to rising 7th, 8th and 9th graders, consists of a week of classes that takes place on site in Durham and Brevard. Accelerator courses, for rising 10th, 11th and 12th graders, are conducted over three weeks; the first two weeks occur online, and the last one takes place at one of the two campuses. This year, almost 500 students will participate in the program, including 60 at the Brevard campus.
Aside from daylong classes, the program includes a wide range of afternoon and evening options like ultimate Frisbee, 3D printing, magic shows, and planetarium visits.
And this year will feature a brand-new activity: a half hour of mindfulness meditation every morning. “The students are typically under a lot of pressure,” said Hill. “There are so many studies about mindfulness helping with focus, the ability to make decisions, and—especially for young minds—helping with stress.”
Despite the high-level course work, though, the program is usually wholly embraced by the participants. “The number one thing people say is, ‘I finally feel like I belong.’ That might not be typical at their home school,” said Hill. “What we hope to do is give them tools to help them find their niche.”
The new Brevard campus is just the start of the Accelerator’s expansion, which is scheduled to grow to five locations in five years. Other sites tentatively include Morganton (which will later be the location of NCSSM-Morganton), Greensboro, and Morehead City.