Lab technician Jeremy Smith shows Lee Middle School pupils how to make a gummy bear explode with potassium chloride. For more photos, see the slideshow.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — About 260 middle school students experienced college life Wednesday morning.
The students, from Herberg Middle School in Pittsfield and Lee Middle School visited the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts Wednesday morning as part of the Berkshire County Goes to College program.
The day, coordinated by Berkshire Compact, provides the opportunity for about 1,200 sixth-graders to visit various Berkshire County colleges throughout the week.
According to Mary Nash, the project coordinator at Berkshire Compact, data "overwhelming shows" that he students are more likely to go to college after experiencing it at the young age.
"Education, going to college, is inspiring, it's engaging, it's informative and it can be a lot of fun," said President Mary Grant at the lunch gathering. "So I am glad you are here."
"It may not feel like it, but pretty soon, sooner than you believe in, you'll be making decisions about going to college," Grant said. "So start thinking about that now, and if you are excited about something, if you're passionate about something you're likely going to be pretty darn good at it."
One group of Lee Middle School pupils started their morning at 9:30 a.m. discussing leadership and, as one student said, to "never give up," with MCLA women's soccer head coach Deb Raber.
"Whether it's theater or sports or art... you grow by making mistakes," Raber said. She also stressed the importance of good choices, time management and the reiterated theme of getting your education.
"It's the one thing [anyone] can't take away from you," Raber said, and also reminded them, "Your education never stops."
Then, the pupils visited Bowman Hall's chemistry laboratory and were awed by chemical reactions performed by lab technician Jeremy Smith, who exponentially inflated a marshmallow, blew up a blue gummy bear with potassium chlorate and more — each experiment eliciting responses of "whoa" and "that's cool" from the engaged sixth-graders.
Heberg Middle School pupils check out newspapers produced by the MCLA student paper The Beacon.
Throughout the morning, the seven groups of pupils were taught the finer points of newspaper production at the The Beacon office, sat in front of the cameras at the TV Studio, gazed at stars inside the planetarium set up at the Amsler Campus Center Gym, and toured Berkshire Towers — where they were advised not to wake up the college students at about 11 a.m. They also visited the fine and performing arts department, as well as the athletic training room.
"You guys did it in just one simple morning on campus now imagine what you can do with the rest of your education," said Joshua Mendel, the associate director of admission, during the lunch.
The pupils closed the day, gathering in Veneble Gym for lunch and a performance by part of MCLA's acapella group, The Allegretos.
Berkshire County Goes to College program started Monday when Reid Middle School pupils visited Berkshire Community College. Farming River, Lenox Memorial and Richmond schools students spent Tuesday at Bard College at Simon's Rock.
On Thursday, pupils from Clarksburg, Greylock and Sullivan elementary schools and Berkshire Art and Technology Public Charter School will visit MCLA while pupils from Gabriel Abbott Memorial School, Brayton Elementary and Nessacus Regional Middle School will visit Williams College.
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