High School Outreach – Part 2

Dec 6, 2011   //   by Jenna Pinkham   //   Compass News, High School Outreach  //  2 Comments
Fall 2011 Shadow Day

Shadow Day lab tours. From left to right: Jenna Pinkham, Melina, Ariana, Mr. Towey, Dimitri Dounas-Frazer. Photo taken by Ana Aceves.

Introduction by Dimitri Dounas-Frazer

The Fall 2011 semester saw Compass delve into high school outreach for the first time. Compass partnered with the Making Waves Education Program for two events: (1) Shadow Day, where high school seniors followed Compass undergrads to their college classes, and (2) a  math fair called Radical Pi Day, which was described in an earlier post. This post will focus on Shadow Day.

Planning Shadow Day was a bit of a headache; I needed to recruit about 10 Compass students, Armando (my contact at Making Waves) also needed to recruit students, and we both had to coordinate everybody’s schedules. Although 11 Compass undergrads signed up to participate, only 3 high school students ended up coming to Berkeley. So, at the end of the day, only a handful of Compass students were paired with shadows: Jenna, Ayman, Kristine, and Jaime. In addition, Ana, Harjit, and Punit made guest appearances at breakfast and lunch. (As a sidenote, Armando and I plan to streamline the recruitment process for next semester.)

The day started with breakfast and ice breakers on the Berkeley campus in the Helmholtz Room. After breakfast, some student pairs went immediately to class. Others had about an hour to tour laboratories in the Physics Department before heading to lecture. Everybody regrouped at I-House for lunch, and then dispersed again for afternoon classes. By the end of the day, each high school shadow had attended a few of the following courses: Physics 7A, Physics 7B, Math 1B, Math 53, Political Science 1, and Western Civilization. Before the Making Waves students and faculty left, I met with them in the Compass office to say goodbye. Everyone was extremely gracious, and the teachers seemed eager to do this again in the spring.

Compass is a large program, and only a small subset of us had the chance to participate in Shadow Day. In order to share our experience with our peers, I’ve compiled reflections from Ayman, Kristine, Jenna, and Melina. Melina was one of the shadows, and she ended up visiting Berkeley a couple more times to tour labs in the Physics and Chemistry Departments.

I’d simply signed up for the shadow event out of curiosity, but I’d never expected it to be a learning experience for myself, seeing what high school students expected of college and probe my own expectations. It made me take a step back and look at my own transition from high school to college and  examine what it all meant to me. And there’s the satisfaction of knowing that you can make a contribution in helping a high school student familiarize themself with what awaits them after high school.

Ayman Kamruddin, college freshman

Compass Shadow Day was great success, both for the participants as well as for the shadow students.  I really enjoyed having Zina attend my physics lecture as that day my physics professor was extremely exciting, and I am glad she got to witness physics at its best.  Having a Compass Shadow Day also brightened up my own day as I came from a math midterm and had the high school students brighten up my day.

I also enjoyed having lunch with the students and talking to them about their own college plans.  It brought back fond memories of my own college application process last year, and I was eager to share some of my own insights from what I learned from the process.  Thereafter I took Zina to my English discussion section and then had to say goodbye.

What I loved most about Shadow Day was that even though Zina was not interested in studying physical sciences, she still got a taste of what it is like to study a physical science as well as see a humanities class.  I believe that only by seeing all of the options available will she make the best choice about her own specific path and interests, and I was happy she got exposed to a wide variety of courses.

Kristine Rezai, college freshman

As a student in Making Waves, a college preparatory program located in Richmond, I have participated in events coordinated collaboratively by Making Waves and the Compass Project. In October, I attended Shadow Day and sat in UCB math and science courses. I first visited Physics 7B. That day, the professor covered circuits, and while I understood the basics initially, by the end, I was lost. Nevertheless, sitting in a college-level physics class was a refreshing experience that showed me what college could be like. I also enjoyed sitting in Math 53. I really like math at school and I enjoyed seeing some of the more complicated topics in multi-variable calculus that I could learn in the future.

Soon after, I also visited some Physics and Chemistry laboratories at UCB. I toured a couple of Atomic Physics labs, and I really liked getting a feel of the setup for these types of labs. I especially enjoyed visiting the physical chemistry labs and being back at Cal since my summer there. I hope that these events between Making Waves and the Compass Project continue. For other kids like me who are interested in math and science, this is definitely a wonderful opportunity.

Melina, high school senior

I really enjoyed Shadow Day! At first I was a little bit ojealous and was all “I wish I could have shadowed someone at Berkeley,” but it didn’t take long where I was just enjoying showing my shadow around.  Plus I got to go to some fun labs—always a plus.

Being a Shadow Day participant also got me thinking about my classes differently. I took my shadow to Physics 7B and Math 53, classes where you really can’t just show up and expect to understand everything (and, as far as 53 goes, you can’t really expect to understand everything right off the bat even if you’ve been coming to class every day). So it was interesting sitting there being like “Will my shadow understand this? What can I say to her that will help the material make more sense?” Having a high school shadow prompted me to think about the material in a way fundamentally different than “Ohmygod why is the professor writing so fast? Is this going to be on the midterm? Must take better notes!”

In all, Shadow Day was a really great, beneficial experience that I would love to have again.

Jenna Pinkham, college sophomore

[Note: This entry was edited after it was posted in order to incorporate an additional quote from a participant.]


  • I want to take this opportunity to thank all the undergrads that helped make the Shadow Day possible. I especially want to appreciate Dimitri for all his hard work and dedication to make this event possible. After several conversations with my students, I can honestly say shadowing undergrads has helped them reflect on what college is really about and the expectations they must meet next year when they themselves attend college. It is events like Shadow Day that really allow our high school students to experience college in a more genuine setting allowing them to make sense of their academic interests. Dimitri and I have already started talking about the next Shadow Day and I can only hope to have more students attend next semester and have a second successful event!

  • This is a good reason to etiminale grades, which are a large part of the problem here. Forcing students to take courses they are not interested in is most of the rest of the problem. It’s not the fault of the students that grades are all-important, it’s the game that they’ve been presented with. They are just trying to survive the game, as it has been laid out for them, in the best way that they can. I don’t think that there is an easy way to fix the problem as long as we keep the current inhumane system of grading. I’ve posted about this on my own blog, as recently as earlier today.The way to fix the problem is to create nurturing environments where students are encouraged to engage in projects that they feel passionate about. When they run into situations where they need to learn some background knowledge/skills, they will do it enthusiastically, and retain it, because it means something to them. And if they don’t cover all of the background knowledge that we would have liked them to, so what? Once they have practiced the process of initiating, struggling through, and successfully completing projects they care about, they will have all the ability they need to be successful in life, and will be able to rapidly learn whatever they should happen to need in future. We are so afraid that high-school studetns will graduate without having covered all the essential background that we have created a system that virtually guarantees that the vast majority of students will graduate with a poor understanding of their high-school studies! University is worse. Whitehead said that Knowledge keeps no better than fish and it is high time we heeded this.

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