70 top Year 12 students from 33 state schools and colleges across East Anglia, the East Midlands and London attended the 10th annual Pembroke and St. Catharine’s Year 12 Summer School in July.—Laura McGarty
The Pembroke and St. Catharine’s Colleges’ annual Summer School is a free four day residential event for bright Year 12 students interested in studying any of the degree courses which the University of Cambridge has to offer. The programme is designed to demystify what it is like to live and study in Cambridge and to equip participants with knowledge and skills to help them submit strong university applications and achieve highly in their Year 13 examinations.
Through the University of Cambridge’s Area Links Scheme, every school in the United Kingdom is linked to a Cambridge College.† Pembroke and St. Catharine’s work with schools and colleges in Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Leicestershire, Northamptonshire, Rutland, Suffolk and the London Borough of Southwark. Laura McGarty, their Schools Liaison Officer has worked with over 2000 secondary school students so far this academic year to raise their aspirations and encourage them to aim for university degrees.
This is Laura’s diary of the Summer School.
After successful completion of their first challenge on arrival (in the form of a three-dimensional jigsaw in the luggage storage room) and lunch in St. Catharine’s College, the participants gathered for an icebreaker session. Each of the eight teams had to build a structure to raise an apple off the ground to the greatest height possible. They rediscovered gravity several times over, with apples rolling all over the place, but after half an hour of planning and construction, every team completed the task!
Next the participants set off for a tour of the University’s departments, faculties and teaching collections, led by current students of Pembroke and St. Catharine’s Colleges. Highlights included the opportunity to stand at the lectern of one of the University’s biggest lecture theatres and an impromptu lesson on the anatomy of the Giant Ground Sloth at the University’s Museum of Zoology, as well as the free samples of fudge on the way back down King’s Parade. †Back at St. Catharine’s College, a session led by admissions tutor Richard Partington looked at putting together a strong UCAS application for competitive universities. †Once the participants had had their first real taste of being a university student as they found their way to their College rooms for the first time and unpacked, the first day concluded with a welcome reception and formal dinner.
Thursday saw the start of the Summer School’s series of lectures and small group teaching. Over the course of the event, 22 university academics led a diverse range of sessions, with Thursday’s topics including special relativity, the gender politics of Thatcherism, buoyancy in fishes, media and crime and the biology of human obesity. The small-group teaching sessions were modelled on supervisions, a form of teaching unique to the Cambridge Collegiate system. Comments from the participants following these sessions included:
"It was my favourite part of the course! It was so great talking to an academic in my chosen field and she was really helpful and welcoming."
†"Our supervisor was extremely cheerful and reassuring which made the process far less intimidating than I previously expected."
Participants later enjoyed a workshop led by the award-winning Naked Scientists , who took them on a journey through the workings of the nervous system - and after having everyone had had their senses fooled by optical illusions and witnessed electrical muscle activation, one participant bravely volunteered to be wired up and have her brainwaves displayed for all to see on screen!