Middle School Summer Challenge new program for area middle school students

Washington University in St. Louis will offer a new summer program targeted toward sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders this coming year.

The Middle School Summer Challenge, offered through the Summer Experiences program in Arts & Sciences, combines advanced coursework in a range of academic interests with leadership development designed to provide participants with a complete scholastic and social experience. Students will engage in hands-on learning, field trips and more, expanding their critical thinking in a vibrant, thought-provoking environment.

Washington University hopes to fill a gap in summer programming for this underserved age group.

“Middle school students are at an age when they want to explore larger questions, investigate particular academic interests, think critically, and develop their independence,” said Pat Matthews, director of Summer School and associate dean of University College in Arts & Sciences.

“When our director visits area summer fairs, she receives the most questions about middle school programming. We have great resources at the university that are under-utilized in the summer, and we would like to meet this need,” Matthews said.

With both residential and commuter options, the Summer Challenge offers the opportunity for active engagement with university instructors, teaching assistants, program assistants and other guest speakers. Both summer sessions offer courses in anatomy and physiology, design thinking, history, writing, and interdisciplinary psychology, neuroscience and philosophy.

All students also will be enrolled in the Summer Challenge Leadership Development course, which is meant to explore the meaning and challenges of leadership and to help participants recognize the importance of communication, organization, problem-solving and team-building in their everyday lives.

“This program is differentiated from others in the area because it combines rigorous academic coursework with leadership and social development,” Matthews said. “We hope that students develop intellectually, socially and personally. We hope participants fulfill an intellectual passion, but more importantly, spark an interest, an ability for critical thought, and the initiative to continue learning.

“We hope that each student leaves with more confidence in themselves and increased awareness of the needs of people around them and how they can lead change.”

Admission is granted on a rolling basis until spaces are filled, and all applications are due May 1, 2015. Scholarship assistance is available for students who demonstrate financial need. Visit the Summer Experiences site for more informaiton.