Slogan: GEAR UP for Success

Pledge: I pledge to GEAR UP and drive right to a better start in life because...

Greater education starts with learning;

Early awareness will help me to prepare;

An enriched understanding is what I need;

Readiness I must achieve;

Upward bound I will flow;

Preparing for success as I grow.

Written by: Erica McCord

What do crayfish, basketball and web pages have in common? GEAR UP, of course! This summer a group of 48 rising eighth graders from A.L. Corbett Middle School, Ridge Spring-Monetta Middle School, and Aiken Middle School participated in a four-week Middle School Summer Institute (MiSSI) at USC Aiken. The MiSSI is the first part of a two component, year-round academic enrichment program. The central purpose of the GEAR UP program is to help students Gain Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP). Funded by the U.S. Department of Education through the S.C. Commission on Higher Education, this program provides an opportunity for "average ability students (the "forgotten middle", the "neglected third") in GEAR UP targeted high-need, low-performing schools to promote academic achievement in an enriched, stimulating, and active learning environment." The nucleolus of the GEAR UP program is to give hope, raise expectations, and create college opportunities for disadvantaged and other children. Support from the SC Chambers of Commerce and local businesses and industry has been essential.

The USC Aiken GEAR UP program design includes four weeks in the MiSSI and 25 Saturdays in the academic year Middle School Saturday Academy (MiSSA). During the summer students were transported from their middle schools by school bus or by their parents to the Ruth Patrick Science Education Center where they attended science, mathematics, technology, and enrichment classes. The curriculum, designed by the instructors, focused on explorations related to water, a precious resource. Among other topics students studied in science was adaptations of the crayfish. In math, they collected and analyzed basketball performance data from the free shots they took in the USC Aiken nautatorium pool. In technology classes, they searched the Internet for information about colleges and careers, then built a GEAR UP web site. In the enrichment sessions, volunteers from local industries and DHEC spoke with the students about the paths they took to the careers they chose and the obstacles they overcame. Many of these volunteers will serve as mentors during the MiSSA. Developing attitudes that promote success was a major theme in the enrichment classes.

Field trips taken by GEAR UP were designed to expose students to college campuses, other educational establishments such as museums, and work sites. On the four field trips, GEAR UP 2000 visited three other colleges/universities: Aiken Technical College, Winthrop University and the Citadel. They spent an afternoon at Fort Discovery, an afternoon at the S.C. Aquarium and an evening at Paramount Carowinds. They received the "red carpet" tour of Huffman Corporation that makes cutting devices for industrial use around the world and customized parts such as jet engine parts. Although it is a small company in a small South Carolina town, the Huffman Corporation demonstrated fascinating, state-of-the-art, "real world" applications of mathematics, science, and technology in a wide range of careers. The field trips provided relevant connections to the content that students have learned and will study in their preparation for college. In the fall, a new group of 45 students from seventh grade will join the eighth graders for the Saturday Academy. USC Aiken professors will expose the students to age appropriate lessons with computers, chemistry, engineering, physics, mathematics, geology, and environmental science. Students will also receive tutorial assistance from undergraduate mentors and volunteers with content that they are studying in middle school.

The final component of GEAR UP requires parental involvement. During the summer parents attended two classes to help them learn what to expect in a college prep curriculum, how to plan for college, and how to finance college. Parents visited their children's classes and chaperoned field trips. They will continue their exploration of colleges and careers during the fall.

Students interested in participating in GEAR UP must make a commitment to perfect attendance and parent participation. Students apply and compete for acceptance, much as they would for college slots or an employment position. The application process is a first experience in promoting oneself on paper. Strong academic potential is important, but a genuine desire to go to college most important. GEAR UP aims to make the college dream a reality.

August 2000 RPSEC Newsletter Index

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The Ruth Patrick Science Education Center Newsletter is a publication of the RPSEC for educators. The Center encompasses the CSRA HUB, CEET, Dupont Planetarium, and NRSMEEP. If you have any information that would be beneficical to the audience of this newsletter, or would like to be added to the mailing list, please contact Cindy Sparling, Editor, at (803) 641-3594. Deadline for submission in the next newsletter is Nov. 5, 2000

  Copyright © 2000 by the Board of Trustees of the University of South Carolina.

Ruth Patrick Science Education Center
Center of Excellence in Educational Technology
University of South Carolina Aiken
471 University Parkway
Aiken, SC 29801

 URL: /Newsletter/Aug00/gearup.html (August, 2000)