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Science Challenges Await at Top US High School

  • Ariadne Budianto

Whether creating small rovers to explore a simulated moon-like celestial body or participating in science competitions, students at Poolesville High School excel at one of the most challenging educational institutions in the U.S.

Senior Vinay Sriram choose to attend Poolesville, about an hour from Washington in the state of Maryland, because of its focus on high-level math and sciences.

"There are four primary science competitions that I did. The first competition was the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair. I studied different algorithms to optimize security protocol on the Internet," Sriram explained.

Unlike a regular U.S. high school, Poolsville divides its students into programs.

“We offer [a] Humanities program, we have a Global Environmental program that concentrates on stewardship for our environment. We have an Independent Studies program, said Principal Deena Levine.

"In that program, students can take a little bit from any of the disciplines they are interested in, and finally we have a signature program in advanced engineering.”

Poolesville ranks 70th among the 100 most difficult schools in the U.S. with its programs in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Mark Curran designed a curriculum with classes like quantum mechanics and thermodynamics.

"We prepare them to be critical thinkers, problem solvers, but also focus on a lot of content. The goal of getting them into 11th grade is to prepare them to go onto a professional, scientific, mathematical, computer science internship at a professional laboratory," Curran said.

This public and magnet school selects its 1,200 students based on grades, test scores, essays and recommendations. Apart from the science and math tracks, students can apply to study other fields like global ecology, which integrates science and social studies.

"I think my favorite part of the program is going on the field studies where we get to learn about what we learn in class in real life. So when we were learning about the government in 10th grade, we went to Capitol Hill and talked with senators. When we learn about diversity we go hiking, we go to wetlands, we do our own study," said student Sindhu Chidambaram.

But in this very competitive environment, can students pursue non-academic interests? Absolutely yes, according to student Courtney Steininger.

"I’ve always been on Poolesville High’s forensics team since freshman year. I’ve been president for both last and this year. I’ve done mock trials since my sophomore year. I’ve done debate. I’ve been playing piano since I was 5 years old," Steininger said.

With courses from the arts to health sciences, there is something to match every student's interests and talents at Poolesville High.