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Churchill's Academy Finishes First Year

Before Alice Magill begins her upperclassman years at Churchill, she will have interned at the National Institute of Health’s Cancer Institute. It was just the opportunity she’d hoped for when she enrolled in Churchill’s new Academy of Mathematics, Technology and Science.

“After I found out about it, I realized it would be a really good opportunity,” said Magill. “It involves science, which I love, and it helps you get an internship over the summer.”

Magill and 44 other Churchill sophomores completed the academy’s first year by presenting their yearlong culminating research projects on Monday, June 9. Each student made a PowerPoint presentation in front of classmates and a teacher.

“It’s hard to believe it’s really over,” said Jennifer Klein, whose presentation was on the effects of space travel/space flight on the human body. “This is the culmination of a year of research. … It’s gotten me excited about space travel and further space exploration and research. Hopefully I can be involved in it some day. ”

“The projects have been the most memorable thing,” said Signature Program Coordinator Ruth Checker. “Their end products are just absolutely remarkable.”

“After you finish, it’s kind of relieving,” said Robert Sorbello, who studied exercise physiology. “It took my quite awhile to finish it, but I got through.”

NEXT YEAR, CHURCHILL Churchill will launch the second leg of its Signature Program, the Academy of Creative and Performing Arts. Checker has gone to art conferences and has interviewed artists as preparation, which will have artists-in-residence as part of the program. Seventy students have registered for arts academy, several of whom are already enrolled in the science academy.

Kim Murphy is one of the sophomores who will be enrolled in both academies next year. A member of Simply Irresistible, a show choir at Churchill, Murphy feels inclined toward the sciences and the arts. “This is just a great opportunity to focus on my interests,” she said. “Science and art are so entirely separate that I couldn’t pick a favorite. … That’s why I wanted to do them concurrently.”

CHECKER SAYS SHE LEARNED several lessons while overseeing the Signature Program’s first year. She hopes to incorporate more direct teaching at note-taking skills and basic computer skills, mentioning that some students know C++, a complex programming language, but had difficulty with fundamentals of PowerPoint.

A point system will also be implemented next year, the specifics of which will be worked out this summer, Checker said. No grade is attached to the culminating projects. While a majority of students kept pace with the periodic deadlines through the year, Checker said a point system will be necessary to ensure students consistently meet the program’s requirements.

“There was pretty much time in between the deadlines,” said Allison King after presenting her project on the function of the thyroid gland in teenagers. “They were mostly during the lunch break, so that was really helpful.”

A positive surprise for Checker was that every student came up with his or her own project idea. Yao Yang did her project on Proteus Syndrome, the disease suffered by Joseph Merrick, ‘The Elephant Man.’

“I was really bored one Friday night and I started watching the Discovery Channel,” said Yang on how she first learned of Merrick.

<1b>—Ingrid Mezo contributed to this article.