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A sneak peek: Program gives freshmen exposure to classes

Photo by Tori Boone

Photo by Tori Boone

LAWRENCEVILLE -- Classes don't begin until August, but incoming freshmen at Gwinnett School of Mathematics, Science, and Technology are already getting a taste of their curriculum.

This week, the rising ninth-graders have been participating in chemistry labs, completing trigonometry problems and working cooperatively on projects.

"The first day we came here, we were already given homework," said Constance Perkins, who just finished eighth grade at Jones Middle School.

But Perkins isn't complaining. Instead, the aspiring doctor said she is using the experience to figure out how to make the most of her time so she doesn't fall behind when school resumes Aug. 9.

Gwinnett School of Mathematics, Science, and Technology is a charter school with an educational program focused on mathematics and scientific inquiry and discovery in engineering, bioscience and emerging technologies.

During their freshman year, students take classes including chemistry, physics, engineering and advanced integrated geometry -- courses that aren't generally taken by high school students until 10th or 11th grade.

The Summer STEM Experience -- STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and math -- is designed to introduce the students to the classes they will be taking, GSMST principal Jeff Mathews said. The week also includes team building activities to help the students start building bonds with each other and their teachers.

"It's a chance for them to learn about the school and for the school to learn about them and help them with that transition from middle school," Mathews said. "Starting ninth grade is tough enough, anyway."

Designing the week around academics gives teachers the opportunity to learn what the students already know. With that information, the school can appropriately place them in classes before the school year officially begins, Mathews said.

"It gives students a head start and allows us to increase our instructional time in the fall," Mathews said.

Iva Zivojinovic, a rising senior, said the summer program has evolved since the school first opened in 2007. Initially housed in Duluth High School, GSMST recently moved into its permanent facility in Lawrenceville.

When Zivojinovic participated in the summer program before her freshman year, it was known as Boot Camp, and she said students spent a lot of time talking about what the culture of the school would be like. As the school has grown, the summer program has evolved.

"Now students get a concrete idea of what they should know," she said.

Anant Desai, a former Hull Middle School student, said he "definitely" thinks the program will help him when classes start. He said, for one thing, he'll have a better idea of how to navigate the school.

"It's a very amazing school," he said. "It's like no other school I've been to. I love all the technology and how advanced it is."

Gordon Clark, another rising freshman, agreed. He said he's getting "more and more excited" for school to begin.

"There's no replacement for just getting to know the school," he said.