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Symbiotic Relationships Formed the First-ever Science Research Symposium: CHHS and PVC students collaborate and learn from one another



Symbiotic Relationships Formed the First-ever Science Research Symposium: CHHS and PVC students collaborate and learn from one another

Last week, seventh-grade students came to CHHS to learn from students enrolled in the Science Research course, ask questions, and start thinking about science courses at the high school. PVC Math teacher Tracy Finan organized the trip and said she was pleased to see how engaged her students were as they moved around the library to meet with different high school presenters. “I knew the students would be more interested in talking to high school students about their experience and what they’re learning than they would be to hear about the class from teachers - and it was clear that they enjoyed it,” said Ms. Finan.  

The Science Research Symposium was a mutually beneficial event that provided high school students an opportunity to practice presenting to new audiences while also giving middle school students insight to the program and tangible examples of an in-depth research process. At PVC, every student is currently working on their Passion Project, which requires self-led research on a topic of their choice.

The Science Research Program at CHHS spans three years, with students beginning in their Sophomore year. Throughout the program, students determine their research topic, review science journals, secure a mentor, and then work with that mentor to conduct research. The program's third year is focused on completing their research paper and entering competitions. Supported by SUNY Albany, students earn 12 college credits for completing the course.

Science Research and AP Biology teacher Robert Keehn guided his students to tailor their presentations to their audience and to focus on their “elevator pitch” to summarize their research. His students had already created “PechaKucha” image-driven presentations (20 slides for 20 seconds each). The word “PechaKucha” is Japanese for “chit chat.” Mr. Keehn urged his students to “Get away from feeling like the slide show was the focal point. It’s their knowledge and their hard work. They are the experts on their research.”

Seventh-graders Maeve Chung and Analise Hurtlin sat with senior Casidy Goda to learn about T-VEC, an oncolytic virus that can be used to combat melanoma. Though it was their first meeting, they are now interested in joining the program when they get to high school. Maeve expressed her strong interest in math and mentioned that she might research something related to physics or chemistry. Analise was curious about how Science Research students explore their topics and find mentors to support their work.

Tracy Finan shared that her goals for the symposium were two-fold. Provide PVC students with a better understanding of the research process to support their Passion Projects, and get students interested in science and STEM early, so they take advantage of the science and computer science courses offered at CHHS. “Especially girls, you have to get them interested in grades 5 through 8,” she said. Based on some initial feedback, it’s clear that the Science Research Symposium was successful. As a result, Mr. Keehn should expect to see a significant number of students from the class of 2029 enrolling in the program!