Buchholz adds chemistry to program for brightest eighth-graders
Published: Friday, August 30, 2013 at 5:23 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, August 30, 2013 at 5:23 p.m.
Teachers at Buchholz High School are hoping to give students a leg up on their future by exposing middle schoolers to advanced science and math classes.
Will Frazer, who teaches math and coaches the Buchholz competition math team, started an advanced math program for middle school students in 2002.
This year, for the first time, students also can take honors chemistry before school, putting them at least two years ahead of their peers in science.
Exposing students to advanced math and sciences early falls in line with a nationwide push toward careers in science, technology, engineering and math, Frazer said.
Students tried out for the program in May by taking an entrance test.
Frazer said students have taken the math test to test into the program since its inception in 2002, but the science component was new this year.
Students from five schools tried out, and 17 eighth-graders were accepted. All 17 are taking both the advanced algebra and honors chemistry classes, Frazer said.
The eighth-graders take a period zero honors chemistry course before school starts at Buchholz, from 7:30 a.m. to 8:25 a.m. After that, they go to Frazer’s first-period algebra 2 competition class, also taken by high school students.
A bus takes them back to their middle schools, where they arrive in time for their second-period classes.
Students in the program don’t have to take math at their middle schools, but they’re still required to take eighth-grade science.
Frazer said at Buchholz, students usually don’t have the chance to take honors chemistry until at least 10th grade.
In the rest of the developed world, Frazer said, students are exposed to advanced math and sciences as preteens.
“It kind of made me think, we need to be exposing our best and brightest to this challenging stuff earlier,” he said.
Frazer approached honors and Advanced Placement biology teacher Carolina Hurst about teaching an early-morning chemistry class to the middle school students. Hurst previously has taught middle school and chemistry courses.
“I said, ‘If they want it, how can we say no?’” she said.
Hurst said the students have done well so far. They had their first quiz last week, and most received full marks, she said.
“Academically, I think they are as prepared and as mature” as the high school students, she said. “I think it’s going to be a great year.”
Joseph Hardin, 12, took algebra 1 in sixth grade and geometry in seventh grade at Kanapaha Middle School. He wanted to continue with algebra 2 this year, and “really the only place I could take it was Buchholz,” he said.
Joseph also takes honors chemistry in the morning, which he said he enjoys the most.
The class already did its first lab, where students mixed water of different densities and colors in a graduated cylinder so the layers separated out, forming a rainbow in the container.
Joseph said the first week of school took some adjusting, since he has to get up earlier and now has seven classes instead of six, but he said he’s got his routine figured out now.
“When you’re really determined to do the work, you can find time to do it, even with all the middle school homework,” he said.
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