In the spring of 2008, Mr. C. Fred Shewey, formerly of Kermit, WV, provided a grant to the June Harless Center at Marshall University to promote science education in Mingo County. The Shewey Science Academy is part of a larger project to increase student achievement in science across Mingo County and southern West Virginia.
Each summer, middle school students from across Mingo County participate in an active science program designed to increase science knowledge and skills as well as motivating students toward college science majors. At the week-long academy students participate in science investigations with science educators, scientists and mentors that are drawn from Mingo County instructional staff, Marshall University faculty and staff, WVDE personnel, and science education students.
Staff from the June Harless Center and College of Science at Marshall University conduct a pre-academy training for Mingo County educators in preparation for the students’ arrival. The Marshall trainers act as assistants to the Mingo County teachers during the Shewey Science Academy. In this way, capacity among Mingo County teachers is being built. Synergy with Appalachian Math-Science Partnership activities in Mingo County reinforces enhancements in STEM initiatives in the district.
The first Shewey Science Academy took place in the summer of 2008 at Kermit K-8 School serving 48 students. The topic of the academy was “A Murder in Mingo” in which students had to use forensic evidence from DNA, bite marks, hair and fiber, blood stains, soil samples and insect larvae to solve a contrived murder. The academy culminated with a mock trial in which the former Mingo County Superintendent, Dwight Dials presided as judge.
In 2009, the Shewey Science Academy expanded to two locations, Lenore K-8 School and Williamson Middle School. Plans to also expand to Gilbert were postponed due to catastrophic flooding in the area. A total of 86 students were served at the 2009 academy in which students used GPS/GIS technology to prepare interactive maps of Mingo County using data that they collected.
As the Shewey Science Academy develops the impact on students continues to expand. In the summer of 2010, the academy expanded to four locations, Gilbert, Lenore, Matewan and Williamson. Over 180 students signed up for participation. At the 2010 academy, students collaborated on a NASA e-mission to deal with a large scale emergency resulting from a volcanic activity.
In each subsequent year, the Shewey Science Academy continues to expand and improve to impact the children of Mingo County and to stimulate interest in mathematics and science. In 2011, students investigated water quality issues affecting a small town. The 2012 Shewey Science Academy returned to a forensic science scenario to use DNA, footprints, fingerprints, dental records and other evidence to investigate and solve a fictional murder. The 2013 Shewey Science Academy used LEGO robotics to teach engineering and design along with basic science and mathematics. In 2014, another NASA e-mission had the students plan a mission to rescue an astronaut stranded on Mars.