Getting schooled by students

Published 9:48 pm Wednesday, July 13, 2011

For the past week, I’ve had dozens of people younger than me school me on math and science concepts. While I’m always open to learning new things, when a 12-year-old has to dumb things down for you, it can hurt your self-esteem.

I have had a lot of assignments lately that have put me in contact with students who are great at math and science.

I visited a technology camp at King’s Fork Middle School for a story, as well as a game development camp at the Virginia Modeling and Simulation Center for stories this week.

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But I got my first lesson from Sydney Folsom, Lakeland High School’s 2011 valedictorian, last Friday when I interviewed her for our valedictorian series.

After she blew me away by saying her Advanced Placement calculus class wasn’t challenging enough and that her 4.53 grade point average was just a result of trying to get into the University of Florida, Folsom told me she is working as a research assistant at Old Dominion University during the summer.

Folsom wants to be an engineer, and when she learned about the work professor Nickos Chrisochioves was completing, she wanted to be a part of it.

As someone who doesn’t know much about engineering techniques, I had to have Folsom break down Chrisochioves’ work to me.

She went into great detail about how the professor is combining computer methods with medical models, but I always had a new question to ensure I was clear about the topic.

More embarrassing than having Folsom break things down for me was having 11-year-old Jacob Kinnear explain to me what he was learning at the game development camp at VMASC.

I had a lot of questions for him, but I think the worst part was when Kinnear turned his computer toward me and said, “Here, I’ll show you.”

Getting schooled by an 11-year-old was pretty tough, but it did alert me to how I must have made my mother feel when I was 13 and took her cell phone to show her how to use it.

These students I’ve met in the past week all have something in common – they are all exceptionally intelligent. More than that, they are good at math and science, which most students dread.

Instead, these students embrace the subjects as having great possibilities and want to pursue science-, technology-, engineering- and math-based careers.

I hope talking to me did more than make them feel smart, but I hope it made them realize that not everyone has their talents, and they should be proud of their abilities.