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The 11th Hessian Student Academy for Middle Schools took place with the support of the Beilstein-Institut from July 24 to August 2, 2022 at Burg Fürsteneck.

Ten Days at Burg fürsteneck

Around sixty students of German school grades seven to nine can follow their (specific) learning interests at Burg Fürsteneck, located between Fulda and Bad Hersfeld in Germany. They come together for ten days during school holidays to participate in an extracurricular educational program. This includes various activities such as sports and leisure in addition to the majors and electives in different subject areas.

At an open day the students present their results allowing parents and guests to get an impression of everyday life at the academy.

The Hessian Student Academy has been held since 2004 and is supported by the Beilstein-Institut since 2011. Until 2010, the event was aimed exclusively at students and high school students. In 2011, the offer was extended by a Student Academy for Middle Schools.

The 11th Hessian Middle School Student Academy took place from July 24 to August 2, 2022.

Five main courses in the fields of chemistry, maths, physics, arts and humanities were offered. Moreover, the participants could choose elective courses. The choices were religious (End of the world from the Bible to climate catastrophe), latin music with percussion instruments, English and Scottish Contradance, creative writing and storytelling as well as woodworking and wood art.


Learning with fun at the castle

 

The 11th Hessian Student Academy for Middle Schools took place again in presence at
Burg Fürsteneck

 

After two years of pandemic, the 11th Hessian Middle School Student Academy felt its way back to normality and enabled 60 selected students from grades 7 to 9 from all over Hesse to spend the first week of their summer vacation from July 24 to August 2 at Burg Fürsteneck, located between Fulda and Bad Hersfeld in Germany.

Under the overall direction of Professor Moll and Dr. Weygandt, the students focused on the topics of the five main courses (chemistry, physics, mathematics, humanities, and art & culture) and the five elective courses (religious studies, percussion, contradance, creative writing, and woodworking).

During an open day, parents and invited guests had the chance to get an insight into the impressive program of the academy, to experience the spirit of research and overall, to the see the development of their children over the past few days. With great astonishment, parents and guests noted how the students extended their knowledge and how they successfully translated into results. The topic mix, the alternation between seriousness and fun, and the atmosphere of the castle let the students quench their thirst for knowledge.

The topic mix offered something profound, surprising, new and exciting for all levels of interest. The main chemistry course was dedicated to the history of chemistry and approached famous chemists such as Justus von Liebig, August Kekulé, Amadeo Avogadro and their achievements in the molecular description of matter. The students clarified the question of how chemical compounds can be described in a model and how researchers of the 18th and 19th centuries approached this problem experimentally. The physics course dealt with one dream of mankind - flying. The basis for flight is aerodynamics, and the first experiments sailed out of the tower window into the courtyard in the form of paper swallows. The teenagers experimentally analyzed the influence of force, speed, pressure and temperature on the ability of objects to fly. In the wind tunnel they learned that air resistance and lift affects the wings of airplanes.

Fact and data analysis was the focus of the mathematics class. In their research expedition into the numbers jungle, the students addressed the prevalence of alternative facts in the public domain and looked for answers on how to verify these claims. From the questioning, over the preparation of data to statistical analysis to the drawing of conclusions, the students performed a workflow to answer, analyze and evaluate the claims and strategies of countries in the corona pandemic. Since data analysis by "hand" is very time-consuming, the students used the Jupyter Notebook, a web-based computing platform, and the modular programming language Python to implement their analysis.

 

The humanities course provided a counterpoint to the science courses. It was analyzed how humanities and cultural studies can and should affect societies and what skills and competencies are necessary to enable opinion formation and decision making and how to communicate these. In the Arts & Culture course, the fruits were hung high: The musical of the Hessian Student Academy for Middle Schools was on the agenda. But before that, the students explored the many facets of a musical, like music, dance and acting, and how writers, musicians, stage and make-up artists, technicians and directors affect the quality of a musical performance. The applause of the guests confirmed the great success of the musical.

The side courses were no less spectacular: The religious studies course discussed apocalypses, looked at the literature (including the Bible), asked about personal apocalypses, but also about glimmers of hope. Attention was also paid to hyped-up disaster scenarios and pied pipers who try to capitalize on people's fears.

In the percussion class cajon, conga and caixa were used to bring life to the rhythms and groove of Latin music, jazz and the students own favorite songs. Another class focused on the musical accompaniment and used it to perform figures, step techniques and structures of English and Scottish contra dances. To appear as authentic as possible, the dancers showed themselves in contemporary garments.

Mental creativity was challenged and encouraged in the creative writing class. However, the focus was not only on self-writing, but also on the source of inspiration and the effect of writing. “From tree to product” – this could be a rough outline of the content of the woodworking course. The theory was quickly put into practice, and an introduction was given both to the material wood with its many properties and to the possibilities of working with planes, saws, sandpaper, etc. At the end of the course, small work pieces were created ranging from an inlaid chessboard to a reading lamp.

Free project work was a new component of the academy program. The students were given time and material freedom to design and deepen a project themselves. This ranged from the creation of musical duets to choirs, included network analyses on the relationships of the support team and tactics analyses at games, and last but not least, the first castle newspaper of the Student Academy for Middle Schools.

The successful realization of the Middle School Academy by the academy team whetted the students' appetites for a repeat of the informal and exciting learning and unusual group experience at the medieval castle Burg Fürsteneck in the next year.

The Hessian Student Academy is funded by:

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