From Research Idea to Final Presentation: An Intensive Summer Course for High School Students

Friday, 11 December 2020
Diana Lynne Ibarra, Independent Schools Foundation Academy, Pokfulam, Hong Kong and Rachel Oser, The Independent Schools Foundation Academy, Hong Kong, Hong Kong
The ISF Academy in Hong Kong has established a rigorous student-led research program over the last eight years, from which many posters for the AGU Bright Stars program emerge. This program provides opportunities for students in grades 9 – 12 to work on a topic of interest that is outside the core curriculum and reflects an independent pursuit of intellectual curiosity. Given the limitations due to the pandemic and the inability to travel, the Shuyuan faculty at The ISF Academy capitalized on the students’ presence in Hong Kong over the summer, to write and deliver a unique research-based STEM course (AGU Intensive) that would help students develop topics such as renewable energy and sustainability, robotics, computer science, Makerspace, microbiology, and science communication. The expected outcome of this process is for the 29 participants to present their research at the AGU virtual conference.

Activities were both educational and experiential, and also involved senior students who served as role models and assistants. The core elements of this course over the three-week summer session included both skill development (research techniques, data analysis and visualization) and experimentation. The Academy has science laboratories for research into a variety of areas (molecular biology lab, nanotechnology lab, and an outdoor lab for the study of renewable energy and sustainability), tools for citizen science, and access to subject area experts.

The students were surveyed for feedback on the usefulness of the skills being taught, and their overall engagement with the course components. Providing this intense learning environment has allowed students to rapidly upskill research methods, learn how to manage their tasks and time, and become confident in presentation techniques. The success of this intensive course will inform future incorporation into the existing student-led research programs at the ISF Academy.