Summer Science Academy is a science learning and paid work program at Brigham and Women’s Hospital for students entering ninth grade in the fall.

Key Takeaways

  • Hands-on activities tied to larger concepts keep students engaged.

  • Encouraging students to work through challenging material by asking peers rather than adults for help allows students to engage more with the material.

  • Teamwork, as well as the professional environment of the program, help students see their work as part of something larger than their own learning.

  • Relationships between program providers and families of the youth in programs tend to help prevent behavioral problems.

  • A team building field trip at the beginning of program facilitates a community atmosphere among students who would not previously know each other.

Q: What kinds of strategies do you and your staff use to keep youth engaged and busy in activities?


A: We make sure that there are numerous hands on activities daily as well as making sure the activities are tied to a larger concept they are learning about. We also make it a point to make sure nothing is too easy and the students are challenged while providing appropriate support when needed. We have the students try and help each other with challenges before having a staff person step in. The kids seem naturally more engaged when they are learning from their peers or teaching their peers. We also make a point of connecting the activities to their future  (high school, college, career) so they can see why the activities matter.

Q: How do you plan activities that will foster youth cooperation and enthusiasm?


A: Most of our activities and sessions have a lot of hands on components and built in teamwork. We also set up fun competitions. This program is not only a summer program, but a job so we frame many of the activities in terms of work and workforce development. For example, at work you are expected to do your job and participate at a certain level.

Q: How do you and your staff enforce rules fairly to the students? Are there any particular strategies that you’ve found work well to encourage good behavior?


A: We go over the rules and expectations that  Brigham and Women’s Hospital has of all employees. These are the same rules and expectations that the students have to follow. I think because it is couched in job responsibilities that all employees at BWH have the students realize that the rules that they have to follow are the same ones that the adults and all staff have to follow.  In addition, we do not wait for students to break rules before we address any problems- we try to identify any problems ahead if we can. We also develop relationships with families as much as possible, which always seems to help behavior.

Q: Other than the activities embedded in the curriculum, do you plan any teambuilding or enrichment activities to foster friendships between youth? If so, how would you say these shaped the overall environment of this program?


A: At the beginning of the program we take an all day field trip to a ropes course and team building day. Our students come from four different schools so we need a day for the kids to get to know each other and to break up the cliques. The team building day really helps the program. It sets the tone of trying new things and meeting new people and having new and challenging (and sometimes scary) experiences.


Summer Science Academy at Brigham and Women’s Hospital provides Boston middle school students with the opportunity to work at the hospital for the summer. Students gain experience in the field of medical careers and learn science concepts through hands-on projects while they are paid for their research and work linking their learning to real-life issues in the hospital. Students work three days per week for six weeks, participating in workshops and field trips to expand their knowledge.