By Jessica Lin (VI) Pingry’s various research programs are one of the school’s greatest strengths. From the renowned Pingry Research Exhibit to the newly added Humanities Independent Research Team (HIRT), our programs are rapidly developing and expanding. We investigated three well-known schools around the area with whom to compare research programs and see how we can potentially improve. These schools are Stuyvesant, a New York public magnet school; Hotchkiss, a Connecticut private boarding school; and Lawrenceville, a New Jersey private day/boarding school. For the purposes of this article, a research program is defined as a school-offered extracurricular program whose main focus is to conduct scientific research to further new understandings in that field. Therefore, this investigation aims to cover research clubs and programs rather than any research based classes.
Beginning with Stuyvesant, we gathered information from their website and found that the school research club runs a science magazine called SIGMA, similar to the Pingry Community Research Journal (PCR). It is organized into four separate departments: layout, annotations, which summarizes articles to make them more comprehensible to the general public, creative works, which focuses on producing the content for the publication, and processing/revisions. Based on SIGMA’s departmental organization, one takeaway is that some form of annotations might also prove useful in PCR issues. Adding short summaries and definitions for scientific terms would expand the audience of PCR to the whole student body, rather than just those who are knowledgeable in STEM. However, a criticism of SIGMA’s structure is that a separate role for annotations would divide the researcher from their work; it would be more efficient to have each researcher define their own terms, since they’re the most knowledgeable in that subject area. The combination of the researcher and annotator roles is also more suitable for Pingry based on our smaller student body compared to Stuyvesant.
Stuyvesant also runs a publication called Nucleus which focuses on prevalent issues and developments in chemistry and physics. Many of the Pingry research programs are centered in biology research, so broadening the scope to different science subjects would benefit Pingry students as well.
After conducting online research and searching through the Hotchkiss and Lawrenceville school websites, we were unable to find a research publication or journal that they run.
According to the Stuyvesant curriculum and student insight from their school newspaper, Stuyvesant appears to be more STEM-centered than Pingry; this orientation is reflected in the spread of their research programs, as they lack any equivalent to Pingry’s HIRT. However, one strength is their Stuyvesant Research Mentoring Program (SRMP), which pairs upperclassmen with underclassmen who are interested in scientific research. The goal is for the more experienced upperclassmen to “help aspiring student researchers develop their scientific interest and enable them to get a foothold in the research world,” according to the SRMP website. While Pingry offers various tutoring programs in core subjects like Math and English, a research-specific mentoring program could help expose new high school students to the vast range of research opportunities that can initially be overwhelming. Because many Pingry research programs only accept students in Forms IV through VI, such a mentoring program could help students engage in science research and help them develop essential skills, such as how to read research articles or how to design a lab. This type of program could also help bring the student community together.
Lawrenceville provides more opportunities than Stuyvesant to delve into humanities, such as the University of Pennsylvania’s School Participatory Action Research Collaborative (SPARC), where UPenn graduate students and faculty collaborate with a number of independent schools, including Lawrenceville, to “improve school culture, policy, and practice,” based on their website description. Their research focuses on how issues such as gender, relationships, and identity present themselves at Lawrenceville. Finding a way for Pingry to join SPARC would add greatly to the humanities research department, which HIRT is currently bearing the brunt of. Although we have strong programs at Pingry that cover similar topics, such as the newly formed Pingry Allyship Collective (PAC), a research-based program like SPARC could benefit and pair well with PAC, integrating diversity and inclusion with scientific data specific to our school.
All three schools meet a similar lab equipment standard to that of Pingry, as they all have DNA testing equipment, robotics labs, and some form of a lab space to conduct biological research. However, one unique asset of Hotchkiss is their observatory for stargazing. The on-campus Hotchkiss Observatory boasts a 20 inch telescope and enables students to research stellar activities through the student-led Astronomy Club. Hotchkiss states that their rural geographical location in Salisbury CT gives them access to clear skies at night, so it’s undetermined as to whether Pingry would be able to build one in our current location, not to mention the costs of constructing one. However, it could add another layer to the diversity of Pingry research programs.
Based on the schools we investigated, we can conclude that Pingry stands as a top-tier research program among other local high-level schools. The most meaningful and realistic improvement Pingry should consider is adding a program similar to UPenn’s SPARC: one that focuses on the role that gender, race, or any other identifiers play in the school community. We should utilize humanities research to develop an empirical understanding of diversity and equality in our school, so we can then work with other existing initiatives, like PAC, with the goal of improving our school culture. This program would also bolster the humanities research department, which is currently significantly smaller than the STEM department. Whether these ideas are ultimately implemented or not, research remains a vital part of high school education. Research teaches students how to explore and think for themselves, so it’s crucial that Pingry continues to build upon these valuable programs.