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High School Enrichment Program
University of Calgary

Objective: To have high school students engage in research on the University of Calgary's campus

Participants: 40-50 high school seniors, Sigma Xi members, local school district officials, college faculty, deans of medical, science and engineering colleges

Description: High school seniors enrolled in public and Catholic high schools assist scientists in labs at the University of Calgary. The program allows the students to spent four-five months working side by side with professors and/or graduate students on experiments. The students eligible for the program are in advance level courses that allow greater flexibility in scheduling, therefore students can spend time during the normal school day at the campus. Typically students will spend at least one day a week in the lab. The experiments range from research projects designed specifically for the students to research that professors were going to undertake regardless of student involvement. Some of the research requires only one high school student while other projects are group projects. At the end of the school year the students have a symposium where they present their research. At the symposium, students are given Sigma Xi certificates of achievement. Attendees at the symposium include deans, the president of the university, school board members, the minister of education, parents, teachers, and the local newspaper. This serves as good publicity for the school systems, the university, and Sigma Xi. This program has been a good tool to recruit the best high school seniors to attend the university.

Additional considerations: Liability issues related to having students in the laboratories needs to be researched before the program starts.

Cost implications and source of funds: The individual scientists procure the funding for the research. The cost varies from fairly inexpensive to expensive. The administration has assisted with some funding in the past.

Time Commitment: The chapter members initially coordinating this project need to be available for meetings as well as phone calls with various different parties. Chapter members usually help recruit faculty members in their own department to serve as mentors, as well as being mentors themselves. The symposium is organized by the dean's office.

Co-sponsors/Partners: Corporate sponsors have helped defray the costs of the refreshments for the reception following the symposium.

Number of chapter members involved: 60-70% of the chapter members have mentored high school students.

Outreach/Publicity: The school district handles notifying students about the research opportunity. The press is invited to the student research symposium.

Sigma Xi membership implications: Many of the non-Sigma Xi members who serve as mentors are invited to become Sigma Xi members.

Outline for High School Enrichment

  • Contact both the college administration and local school district offices about the idea. Both parties will need to agree to the program if it's to be successful. Logistical details such as liability, scheduling, and expectations of students and faculty need to be decided.
  • School district offices notify students of research opportunity.
  • Chapter works with deans of the various colleges to identify faculty willing to mentor students.
  • Faculty write up short description of research project.
  • Description is circulated to students in advance level courses. Students rank order the projects they are interested in doing.
  • Deans, chapter officers, and school personnel assign students to projects based on rank order and backgrounds of students.
  • Students are notified by their school of their assignment. It's the responsibility of the student to contact the faculty member to arrange the research project.
  • Students are sent a letter outlining the potential dangers of being in a laboratory and their responsibility for safety.
  • Students are given prep work before the research project begins.
  • High school teachers are encouraged to support the research work the students are undertaking.
  • At the conclusion of the school year, a symposium is held for students to explain their research.

Contact information: Howard Ceri, ceri@ucalgary.ca,  403-220-6960


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