For the past forty years, Cascia Hall has continued the tradition of “Minimester,” which is an interim term that takes place in January. Minimester offers Cascia Hall students unique professional, academic, and spiritual opportunities as they develop themselves as both learners and members of a global community. During Minimester, all students continue to meet with their advanced placement and core classes, yet with a meaningful addition to their schedules.
Sophomores and freshmen have the opportunity to take exciting and uncommon electives that have come to define the Minimester experience. Moving the student’s education beyond the traditional classroom, students have the opportunity to take classes that focus on varied themes – from Star Wars to The History of the NFL, from an Introduction to Engineering to the American Mafia. For the upperclassmen, seniors and juniors participate in internship programs or service projects of their choosing, which allow them to establish networks and relationships with experts in their fields of interest, and sometimes minimester course offerings and internships are able to seamlessly work together for the benefit of the student’s education.
Notably, Sally Fenska, a faculty member of the Upper School Science Department, offers Science Research, an intensive year-long program that prompts students to investigate and address current dilemmas and research opportunities in the fields of biology, chemistry, and earth sciences. During Minimester, Science Research evolves from an extracurricular activity into a course that is designed to truly immerse students in the research processes. The program is designed to involve students as legitimate members of the science community and to provide students with the skillset to complete collegiate and professional-level research. Beau Bingham is one particular student who has found tremendous success and opportunity in his involvement with Cascia Hall’s Science Research program.
Bingham’s particular interest in microbiology became the sounding board for his research on the antimicrobial efficacies of algal extracts which is suggested to have potential as antimicrobial chemotherapeutic agents. His research focuses on obtaining and gaining qualitative information about the chemical structures of the suggested antimicrobial components of these extracts in order to support and further such research. In reflecting on his experience with Science Research at Cascia Hall, Bingham explains, “Scientific research has strengthened my scientific knowledge and critical thinking skills – much of which is due to the intellectual challenge of taking an original research approach. On a professional level, research has exposed me to a number of intriguing scientific professions.” Bingham has even contacted and worked with Dr. Mohamed Kahr, an associate professor of biological science at the University of Tulsa. Such resourcing and networking has allowed for Bingham to further his original research at an academic and professional level that would be difficult to obtain in a high school classroom.
Continually impressed by Bingham’s performance, intellect, and innate curiosity, Fenska explains just how exemplary Bingham’s attitude towards his scientific investigations is; “I am especially intrigued by his ability to find a novel way to look at a global problem from multiple perspectives and his ability to analyze data. Beau contemplates every aspect of his research and asks, ‘I wonder if…’.” And it is that crucial question – “I wonder if” – that sets Bingham apart from many other science students.
In addition to his work in the classroom, Bingham looks forward to competing on the national and international stages with his research at such programs as Junior Science and Humanities Symposia (JSHS) and the International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF). Nearly 1,700 accepted high school students from around the world attend ISEF to showcase their research and compete for monetary prizes, whether in the form of funding for original research or scholarships. Sponsored by the U.S. Navy, JSHS is where students present their original research before a selection of judges and an assemblage of their peers in order to compete for scholarships and, of course, national recognition. Bingham has attended JSHS once, receiving the award for Best Freshman Research, and he attended ISEF twice. Bingham has also received the distinction for the Best of Fair at the Eastern Oklahoma Science and Engineering Fair twice, First Place Category Award at Oklahoma’s State Science and Engineering Fair, along with numerous other awards as a team member.
Cascia Hall provides a special outlet for scientific endeavors, which is not present in many Oklahoma schools. While also being dedicated to his science and academic endeavors, Bingham is an advocate for many social issues, including those in education. Bingham explains, “I would like to see scientific research become a widespread activity among Oklahoma’s science students. Given the disadvantages that those in underprivileged areas in Oklahoma face in obtaining the necessary resources to conduct research, I think that there should be substantial focus on addressing these inequities so that the ability to partake in the scientific research process is a more widely available opportunity.”
As Bingham continues with his interest and success in the STEM field, it is in large part due to Sally Fenska’s Science Research program, Cascia Hall’s Minimester, and Bingham’s knowledge and passion for research that goes beyond the walls of the classroom and high school curriculum in order to understand topics and find solutions for today’s most pressing concerns.