Recently Miss 16 and I were dropped off at a university’s student center, not for a traditional ‘university visit’ of the kind US parents and teens focus on, but to attend a poster session put on by undergraduate researchers just a few years older than my daughter.
Two hours later, our minds spinning with concepts, ideas, projects, discoveries, and possibilities, we stopped off at a tiny campus shop, bought typical student food for lunch (chips and pop) and headed home.
Charlotte Mason talks about laying a feast before our children. People often take this as referring to a wide array of living books, but it also means so much more. The average university is a buffet of delicious and wholesome food, mixed with garbage, poison, and even vomit. During the high school years, we can sift through that table and help our teens find the best tidbits to feast on.
There are presentations such as the one we attended, showcasing the work of top students on a wide range of topics, from 3-D printed artificial knees, models of dam breaks and how to minimize the damage, early flood warning systems in Africa, and post-concussion syndrome to detecting hearing loss in youngsters, stereotypes of women drivers, the effects of NHL salary caps, how to present economic data to politicians, and autism. One year, I read excerpts of letters from Joan of Arc’s relatives requesting, as I recall, the promised pension payment! And all of this work is being done by young people, many of them still teens; this aspect can be hugely encouraging to our homeschooled high schoolers. Also, an event such as this gives a glimpse into many worlds of study and many possible ways of contributing to society.
But, of course, there is more at a university or college. There are special events, student concerts, museums, and presentations. Once we even visited a butterfly display. There are all sorts of professors studying all sorts of interesting questions.
And then there are the public lectures. Once, when I was a student, I heard Solzhenitsyn speak! In a few weeks, we hope to take our girls to a talk by a Nobel Prize winner in physics who is also a founding member of The International Society for Science and Religion.
How does one access these events? That depends on the university, but in most cases it is not easy to find out what is going on. You will need to do some sleuthing, call around, ask students you know, keep your eyes on the newspapers, and search websites.
It will take effort, yes, but it is so worthwhile when, for example, recent biology classes come to life in an exploration of a mouse model of autism, or some basic ideas of physics are explained by a Nobel Prize winner, or students get to touch a shard of a pot that was used by people in ancient Rome.
Even attending just a few events can broaden your teens’ horizons, contribute to their education, and inspire them to use their talents for God in this broken world.
If you enjoyed this article, you might want to follow me on Google+ where I sometimes mention educational events of interest to high school students or link to their YouTube recordings.
(Photo by Rick Cavasin and used with permission.)