At Pawling High School, the Science Research Program is one of the most difficult courses a student can take. With its college-level work and independent research requirements, it is widely known to be one of the most hectic and demanding classes in the school. However, the course adds several points to a student’s GPA, and grants a student the opportunity to earn up to twelve college credits in science for most SUNY schools. The students who take “Science Research” work independently on their own fields of study, with guidance from mentors who are top scientists in their disciplines. Many students say that the course forces them to develop new skills, such as time management and an effective work ethic. Science Research is a three-year course, and students can enjoy such opportunities as traveling for competitions, designing complex experiments, working with the top experts, as well as the ability to win prizes and cash awards.
Students’ mentors can come from anywhere, from the Trevor Zoo at the Millbrook School in Dutchess County to the University of Maryland. Science Research students are allowed to follow their scientific passions and curiosities. Students can choose any area of science, from genetic disorders to alternative energy sources. Some students are working in new fields of study, such as the long-term effects of sports injuries on mental health.
In other science classes, students are typically asked to find a defined set of answers. In Science Research, there is rarely a definite answer. The program allows students to pursue areas of inquiry they might not otherwise have a chance to study. Some students may be looking for mentors, others may be setting up data collection, or even publishing their work.
Science Research is a vibrant, mixed level program, with sophomores, juniors, and seniors often chaotically asking science teacher Gillian Rinaldo questions and working on their individual assignments, scattered across the room. The administration at the high school approached Ms. Rinaldo about creating the program four years ago. Ms. Rinaldo has been teaching at Pawling for five years now. She is a demanding instructor, but she always remains upbeat and encouraging. She has formed a special bond with her students, going so far as to describe them as her “family.” Ms. Rinaldo’s students are equally devoted to her, and they often come to her with all matters, personal and academic. “Sometimes I’m a counselor, a psychologist, a friend, or a teacher,” she says. When asked, Ms. Rinaldo’s students describe her as “kind, fun and energetic.”
Students interested in joining Science Research should talk to any of the upperclassmen who are already in the program for information about joining the course of study and the expectations for the class. However, a word of caution: Students should not sign up for Science Research unless they are completely committed to the self-discipline and hard work required. The workload is heavy, and students must be able to handle the intensity of the program. If not, they may be forced to drop the class. On the other hand, if students are able to persevere, it will pay off immeasurably. This program is great for students who have a love for anything related to science. It will deliver new challenges and present the skills to overcome them. For students who are passionate about science, Science Research gives them the opportunity to be creative with a subject they love.
Lauren Radicchi is a freshman at Pawling High School.