As the first semester at the Princeton International School of Mathematics and Science (PRISMS) came to an end, the high school students from the U.S. and China are not cramming for finals! In the spirit of the schools’ mission to illuminate powerful ideas, nurture a compassionate community and inspire profound inquiry, students prepared formal presentations in lieu of final exams. Every PRISMS student made a major presentation in each subject area, with the highlight coming Friday as they presented their research design proposals which they have spent the first semester developing.
During the week students present final projects and papers, elegant solutions to challenging mathematical and scientific problems, and even videos to demonstrate their mastery of important concepts. Notes Dr. Glenn "Max" McGee, the Head of School, "We believe that there is more to learning than acquiring enough knowledge to score well on a test. We expect PRISMS students to apply and communicate their knowledge so that they truly and deeply learn important concepts and principles. The projects, papers and products our students are presenting are not just evidence of their learning but also a source of thought-provoking inquiry among students and staff. Moreover, every student needs to develop the confidence and capability to speak to an audience with power and eloquence, to answer difficult questions concisely and accurately and to develop the confidence in their knowledge and expertise that will engage audiences."
Highlights of the week included the following student research projects:
At PRISMS all students are required to take biology, chemistry and physics the first two years, rather than the traditional model of studying one discipline each year. As a result, some of the science presentations showed the students’ abilities to integrate ideas from each of the sciences as well as mathematics, creating connections that showed they understood concepts of what PRISMS calls "real world science."
In addition, faculty were moved by the student reflections at our closing session. Dr. Vincent Matsko exclaimed, "Truly, this was the time when it ALL seemed to come together! Students said how much more they liked presentations than final exams. The week flew by, we all worked hard, and it seemed the effect was what we wanted - students to be engaged in deep conceptual thinking and authentic learning."
Students, however, were not the only ones preparing presentations! PRISMS faculty members also presented their own research studies, papers they have authored, presentations they have or will be making at professional conferences and projects such as artwork or poetry they have created. “PRISMS is a learning community, and the faculty presentations are wonderful examples for our students,” commented Dr. Steve Rogg, Biology teacher and Director of the school’s inquiry-driven Authentic Research Program. He added, "For us, this is the difference between ‘real science’ and ‘school science,’ between arithmetic and mathematics and between preparing students for test versus preparing them for real world careers and professional pursuits that will make an enduring difference."
Highlights of Presentation Week will be available on the school’s website next week.
Located on a beautiful garden campus in a quiet residential neighborhood, PRISMS is an international non-profit independent school that prepares talented students to excel in further educational pursuits, to succeed in careers that do not yet exist and to make an enduring difference to improving the quality of life on our planet. PRISMS distinguishing differences are a rigorous, inquiry driven curriculum; unprecedented international collaboration in work and play; and a requirement for students to complete an advanced independent research project every year. Its most successful students are those who can work independently, have a passion for mathematics and science and love to learn.