by Adventist Today News Team

Many Adventist churches will offer a week of Vacation Bible School this summer, but one is providing three weeks of intensive enrichment in science, technology and mathematics (STEM). Berean Seventh-day Adventist Church in Atlanta is one of the largest historically African American congregations in the denomination and the largest Adventist church in the metropolitan area. ESMART Summer Academy is being offered this month through Berean Christian Junior Academy, the K-8 school sponsored by the church.
 
ESMART means "enrichment through science, math, athletics, and research training," program director Alina Mitchell told Adventist Today. She was previously a faculty member in the Ben Carson Science Academy at Morehouse School of Medicine where improved scores in math and science through enrichment programs were documented. "We want young people to develop a love for science and math," she stated.
 
A total of 18 children ages 10 through 13 in grades five through eight are attending from 7:45 a.m. to 3:45 p.m. each day. The program will be expanded in the summer of 2014. "In the mornings they do science and math courses, studying marine science, biology, physics, chemistry and environmental science, Mitchell explained. Mentors help students with individualized math lessons based on a pre-test, as well as lead team building and character development activities. In the afternoons, students learn martial arts and play team sports.
 
Field trips are a regular part of the program. On one trip students took a Discover Scuba Diving course at a diving center. On another trip they participated in a service project at MedShare International, packing 4,000 pounds of medical supplies for an overseas emergency. They will tour the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and participate in a Public Health Day sponsored by a representative from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), among other events.
 
Families pay a total of $450 for the materials, lunch, field trips and a T-shirt. There is a ten percent discount for families with more than one child in the program, and parents get a $25 credit if they refer a child from another family who signs up. The church began advertizing the program early in the spring.