Scholar’s Summer Institute Program Hosts Symposium

Thirty-eight upcoming seventh and eighth grade students from Shoal River, Davidson, Bruner, and Pryor Middle Schools, stayed engaged in STEMM activities this summer at the Okaloosa County School District’s Scholar’s Summer Institute. 

“The Scholar’s Institute is a rigorous three week program where we work with our minority students who have scored a 3, 4, or 5 on their FCAT and they have not taken that next step to take a rigorous course,” said Dr. Cheryl Seals, the No Child Left Behind Specialist for the School District.   “This program prepares them with the skills they need to get ready for the pace of a rigorous advanced class.”

The Scholar’s Summer Institute focused on STEMM related subjects and students participated in numerous experiments such as Kool Heat, Rotocopter, Mean Flight, and Ball Drop. 

“We went over some of the math concepts like how to solve equations, covered the scientific method, gave them pre and post tests on them, and we did several classroom activities,” said Valerie Chubb, a Physics teacher at Choctawhatchee High School and Scholar’s program teacher.  “They participated in a host of activities and had to pick one to complete using the scientific method.”

Students shared their findings with parents and friends by taking turns presenting material at the Scholar’s Summer Institute Symposium.

In the Kool Heat experiment, Mia Montenaro, a seventh grader at Shoal River Middle School explained “we had three elements – sand, air, and water – and we heated them up for ten minutes then measured their temperature.  Then we turned off the lights and took more measurements after ten minutes.”

When asked about their findings, Brandon Meza, an incoming seventh grader at Bruner MS, said “we found that sand heats up the fastest.”

However, both Mia and Brandon were quick to say their data was flawed because the temperature gathering was not done the same way by each group.  This meant their findings were actually inconclusive.

“The methodology that the students are using tonight is the brain child of Dr. Gregory Seaton,” said Arden Farley, the District’s Equity Program Director.  “Dr. Seaton is a professor in New Jersey and is an educational psychologist.  He came down to assist us and helped us give the program a better twist.  For example, when you see these students getting involved and explaining their projects to their parents, you can see their self-esteem go up.”

Family members were encouraged to ask the students questions during their presentations.  Some of the questions asked if the student enjoyed doing the lab, what they would differently, and which lab was their favorite.  The majority of students responded that the Rotocopter was their overall favorite.

“We want them to write like scholars, talk like scholars, think like scholars, so this is a big step for a lot of them because they have to step out of their comfort zone,” said Dr. Seals.  “I have really seen some of them blossom and mature.”

Accountability and follow up is also a critical piece of the Scholar’s program.  Students participating in the program will be given support along with way to ensure they are being successful in school.

“We will be providing academic support, whether it is through a mentor or tutor, because we cannot just put the students out there, we have to support them so they can be successful,” said Dr. Seals.

The Scholar’s Summer Institute program coordinators were Dr. Cheryl Seals, Debbie Davis, Arden Farley and Dr. Gregory Seaton.  Teachers for this year’s program were Carmen Betts-Jones, Floris Cash, Yon Neisha Williams, Wilborne Gottlieb, and Valerie Chubb.

For more information on the Scholar’s Summer Institute program, please contact Dr. Cheryl Seals at

Visit our Facebook page to see a gallery of photos from this event.