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Upward Bound students from Superior High School head to the woods for science week

Superior High School student Caroline Becker finds some invertebrates in her D net as she moves through some lily pads during the University of Wisconsin-Superior’s Upward Bound Program’s science week at Cranberry Lake in Wascott on July 16. (Jed Carlson / / 2
David Haines talks to Upward Bound students about bones in the hand and wrist during science week at Cranberry Lake in Wascott, Wis., on July 16. (Jed Carlson / / 2

Lexi Mattson, a sophomore at Superior High School, loved going down to Cranberry Lake every morning to study the different types of fish.

Sam Dotterwick, a junior at Superior High School, used an electrocardiogram to discover the heart rates of various invertebrate and vertebrate organisms.

Thirty Superior High School students in the University of Wisconsin-Superior’s Upward Bound program spent four weeks on campus taking math, Spanish, English and science classes.

The Upward Bound program is a federally funded program that was brought to UWS in 1999. It’s specifically designed to help low-income high school students finish school and prepare them for higher education.

On the fifth week of the program, the students left Superior for Wascott, Wis., to camp out and have “science week” in the woods.

“The summer program is really fun and productive,” Dotterwick said. “You get a great education and make life-long friends.”

Students identified trees, performed water quality tests, classified vertebrates and invertebrates, studied the human body and explored chemistry.

“We think it’s a good idea to bring the kids out here in the wilderness,” said Angie Hugdahl, UWS’s Upward Bound director. “The kids can have hands-on learning, do a lot of self-reflecting and form stronger relationships with the other kids.”

During science week in the woods, it is part summer camp, part classroom. The students start the day with breakfast, then attend classes with breaks in-between. After classes finish for the day, the students cut loose by swimming or kayaking. The night typically ends with students gathered around a campfire, roasting marshmallows and recapping their day.

Mattson, 15, who was smiling from ear to ear, could not stop gushing about the program.

“I love it; it is such a good program,” Mattson said. “This is my second year being in the program, and I just enjoy the summer experience so much. This is my second family.”

The students take year-round college preparatory classes in math, English, Spanish and science. They also receive counseling, tutoring and study skills training. The program serves 56 students year-round from the Superior school district.

“When we were learning grammar skills, we did a unit on poetry,” Mattson said. “We learned a lot of sentence structures in Spanish; we apply our math lessons, such as the quadratic formula, to real life.”

During the summer, students get to experience life as a college student. They get to live in UWS dorm rooms for four weeks and take classes on the UWS campus.

“It gives the students the idea of what they will face in school next year,” Hugdahl said. “Then when they stay on campus it gives them a taste of the college life.”

Dotterwick, 16, said this is his third year going into the camp, and he encourages students to participate in the Upward Bound program.

“This isn’t a program where you must strictly learn,” Dotterwick said. “We do get to have fun, and the program leaders/tutors make this experience enjoyable for everyone.”

To bring the summer program to an end, the students are spending the week in New York City.

“They are so dedicated to the program and spent a majority of their time with us, so we are headed to New York this week,” Hugdahl said.

The students are expected to visit Columbia University, take in the Broadway show “Wicked,” visit the 9/11 Memorial and more.

At the end of it all, Hugdahl said there is nothing more rewarding than seeing the students complete high school and continue on to college.

“This most rewarding thing is hearing when these kids get their acceptance letter,” Hugdahl said. “I get excited to see that college becomes a reality for them.”