Background on Science Courses Our academy is aligned with research on why students move away from undergraduate STEM majors. Students switch out of STEM majors not because they are incapable, but rather because of: (1) lack or loss of interest in science, (2) a belief that other majors are more interesting, (3) poor teaching by STEM faculty, and (4) feeling overwhelmed by the load and pace of STEM courses These are all conditions that mirror trends in high schools as well. A primary goal in encouraging high school students to pursue STEM teaching careers should be improving their ability to learn in college by providing them with skills and modeling the joy and excitement that comes when STEM classes are relevant to their lives. Close faculty mentoring and successful experiences in all science courses can do much to reverse these trends (Seymour and Hewitt, 199). Institute Purpose Our academy addresses these problems by recruiting and retaining the best students in STEM majors by investing heavily in a limited number of high school students (50) with a relatively large number of mentors in STEM teaching and STEM careers (over 40). This academy integrates key components to increase student performance and retention in science majors through: (1) A first "college" science course (i.e. our 1 week intensive summer institute) that: (a) is inquiry-based, focusing collaborative learning within the context of applied science to a local issue (improving the Cuyahoga Watershed); (b) excites and motivates students through direct interaction with the local watershed, ecosystems, and organisms - and the scientific facilities and instrumentation for studying them; (c) involves assessment and a focus on improving individual learning skills; (d) is taught in small groups, with extensive interaction with faculty and near-peer mentors (i.e. college student interns); (e) employs critical thinking within the context of a discipline, central to helping students succeed in the sciences (Kronberg and Griffin, 2000; Hanson and Wolfskill, 2000) and (f) increases the use and understanding of content by fostering enthusiasm and providing ample opportunities for students to engage in collaborative activities that improve their ability to learn, retain and use information (Nelson, 1994). Skills necessary for success in college science courses are best learned in a science-focused course and curriculum that is tied to personal interest. Science faculty (professors and high school teachers) can provide the path for improved performance by demonstrating how reading, questioning, understanding and writing all have discipline-based expectations that go beyond general learning skills (Nelson, 1994). Practitioners in the field can provide examples of successful applications of STEM learning that have dramatically improved the local environment and thereby the lives of these students. (2) Continued support and mentoring by high school and college faculty, student peers, and local practitioners in Cuyahoga watershed improvement efforts through the development of a learning module by each LC team. The core of this is one teacher and five students from each school that participates, an undergraduate intern to assist each group, public and private industry mentors and one core faculty advisor. Sample Institute Schedule image by Jeffrey Pellegrino Three Day Example of Institute Schedule Day 1 Theme: Remote Sensing of Landscapes Content: GIS Mapping, Interpretation of Maps Technology: Google Maps, Google Earth, MapQuest, Terra Server, etc. Learning: Critical Analysis of online GIS Imaging Software, Group Learning Strategies Field Experience: Mapping of Hiram Campus Assessment: Journal on Group Dynamics and First Impressions Day 2 Theme: Stream Snapshot Field Experiences Content: Observations and Analysis of a Stream Ecosystem Technology: Chemical Analysis tools, Video Recordings, Netbooks for Data Collection Learning: Collaboration on Research Questions Field Experience: Sampling Stream Health Indicators Assessment: Journal on Learning Communities and Field Studies Day 3 Theme: Science and Collaboration Content: Effective Interpretation of Information Technology: Using Presentations Effectively - Powerpoint, Open Office Learning: Presentations on Findings, Learning by Teaching Field Experience: Analysis of Stream Data Assessment: Individual Assessment of Presentation Contributions The institute is designed around a daily topic that has relevance to local watershed environments. We want to provide examples of field activities that can be adapted to local watershed environment, which may be as simple as looking at water runoff patterns on school property. The institute model for future and current teachers' best practices includes incorporating science subjects with technology, learning theory, field practices, and assignments. Simultaneously it encourages teachers and other experts to demonstrate from their own experiences the excitement and satisfaction that can come from fostering effective student learning.