Darlington School: 11 Days, 26 Colleges (WHEW!), Then Some Slow Chemistry
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11 Days, 26 Colleges (WHEW!), Then Some Slow Chemistry

Julia Dodd | August 17, 2015 | 302 views

Thanks to a grant from Darlington’s Upper School Tiger PRIDE parents association, my summer of 2015 was filled with college tours and an international chemistry teachers conference. It was hectic, but lots of fun!

11 Days, 26 Colleges...
In early June, Kathy O’Mara, Phil Titus, and I went on the Southern Association of College Admission Counseling (SACAC) “Sweet Tea” College Tour. This year was an all-Georgia tour. We trekked across 15 Georgia campuses, ate in college dining halls, and slept in college dormitories in order to better assist our senior advisees in their college searches. From Savannah to our own Rome, Ga., admissions officers and students presented overviews of their schools and detailed the programs that make their institutions special. 

We visited private and public universities, large research institutions, as well as smaller public and private liberal arts colleges. The schools that we visited were: Agnes Scott College, Emory University, Georgia Institute of Technology, Georgia State University, Morehouse CollegeOglethorpe University and Spelman College – all in Atlanta.

We also visited Mercer University (Macon), Savannah College of Art and Design (Savannah), Georgia Southern University (Statesboro), Georgia College and State University (Milledgeville), the University of Georgia (Athens), Berry College (Rome), Kennesaw State University (Kennesaw), and Oxford College of Emory University (Oxford).

I had never visited Oxford College and I found it impressive. It has a lovely campus and offers great academics to prepare students for the transition to Emory for their junior and senior years. If you would like the “Big U” experience eventually, but think that you may need a less-hectic pace for your freshman and sophomore years, I encourage you to take a look at Oxford College. 

Not long after the Sweet Tea Tour, I journeyed to Hickory, N.C. to begin the North Carolina Independent Colleges and Universities (NCICU) Western Tour. The schools that we visited were small to medium-sized private liberal arts colleges: Lenoir-Rhyne College (Hickory), Lees-McRae College (Banner Elk), Montreat College (Montreat), Warren Wilson College (near Asheville), Brevard College (Brevard), Mars Hill College (Mars Hill), Gardner-Webb University (Boiling Springs), and Belmont Abbey College (Belmont); as well as Davidson CollegeJohnson C. Smith University and Queens University, all in Charlotte. 

Many of these smaller schools have excellent programs for students interested in careers in nursing and health sciences, in addition to the liberal arts. Davidson, long-renowned for its excellent academics, has a wonderful new student athletic center and offers an outstanding swimming program. Johnson C. Smith, a historically black university, was new to me, but I was impressed by their commitment to provide the opportunity of a college education to students who have aged-out of foster care. As soon as I returned to Rome, I shared that information with friends that work with foster care students in our area. 

Darlington families have access to a wealth of information about colleges and universities through our online Naviance System. I encourage students and parents to utilize that portal to check out these and other colleges – don’t wait until your senior year! The College Guidance Office as well as the college advisers are committed to helping our students in finding that “right fit” school.

Some Slow Chemistry...
In late July, Chris Babb, Mike Hudson and I attended the international Chem Ed Conference at Kennesaw State University. Those four days were filled with presentations from leading chemistry educators, hands-on workshops, discussions of various instructional techniques, and presentations of innovative methods of demonstrating chemical principles (I can’t wait to show my students!).  

At one session that I attended, the College Board’s Chief Reader for AP Chemistry presented the results of the 2015 AP Chemistry Exam. This year it prompted a protest of the “unofficial” policy of limiting the number of 4s and 5s currently awarded on science exams. Many teachers expressed concern that too many students would be paying to take AP Science exams with little chance of receiving college credit for their scores. This debate will continue, no doubt.

My favorite workshop was presented by two Ph.D. Chemistry candidates from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and Northwestern University. They taught us to engineer small, inexpensive perovskite solar cells. 

They are developing these devices to be used by people in remote, “off-the-grid” locations throughout the world. The technique we used is sometimes referred to as “slow chemistry.” Nanoparticle films of photovoltaic crystals self-assemble in layers between conductive glass plates. The solar cells are designed so that they can be stacked to make a battery for use in electrical circuits. Duyen Cao was returning that evening to accept a grant funding her research to develop solar panels using cells like the ones she had taught us to make.

By funding professional development, the Upper School Tiger PRIDE parents association makes it possible for our teachers and college advisers to thrive in their never-ending journey of learning. It affords them the space and time to grow professionally, to craft new lessons, and try out new ideas that help transform the lives of Darlington students.