Every Polygence project is its own unique journey. In the case of Chloe and her father, Myles, this journey has two paths: Chloe exploring the ups and downs of academic research and experimentation, and Myles watching his daughter grow with each step of the process.
Myles is a filmmaker and entrepreneur who holds a BA in Political Science from the University of Pennsylvania and a BE in Marketing from the Wharton School of Business. Below are excerpts from our conversation with Myles on his experience as a Polygence parent.
My daughter is a junior in high school and she did the Polygence program last summer before her junior year. Obviously this is a time when teenagers her age are focusing on their college résumés; and in fact, it was my daughter’s college advisor who suggested she join Polygence as something that would look good on her college application.
This Advisor knows all the top summer programs and extracurricular opportunities that are out there for college bound students. And it is her strong opinion that Polygence is the best program and has consistently offered the best experience for her students.
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Ah, so what was the experience like first learning about Polygence? How did you know that it was something you wanted your daughter to try?
I noticed a few things when I looked over the Polygence site to help me make a decision about signing my daughter up.
Turning passions into projects.
Personalized projects and one on one mentoring.
Highly qualified mentors in various fields who have teaching qualifications and the ability to inspire.
All the above sounded good, but what pushed me to sign up was when I looked at the team running Polygence, as well as the backgrounds of the mentors. I couldn’t help noticing that many went to the top schools in this country and indeed the world.
And in terms of the mentors, all of them seemed to have post-graduate degrees or were working towards their Masters or PhD’s. And again, at some of the top schools in this country and the world.
Let me put this in perspective from my experience: Polygence has more PhD’s and post-graduate degrees within their team than many of the most prestigious private Prep and High Schools in the country.
Chloe is thinking about pursuing some sort of science major in college, and is beginning to think more specifically about environmental science. I wanted her to dive deep into a science project, deeper than any science project she might have in High School. And I wanted her to be exposed to the scientific process both as a learning experience and as an opportunity to explore whether or not this was indeed something that really interested her and a possible life passion that would make her happy.
The program is much better than I had even hoped it would be and the experience is better in ways I never even thought about when I signed my daughter up.
First, my daughter wanted to come up with an experiment and then perform it with the purpose of learning about the scientific process. She had no idea what that experiment would be or how to even begin thinking about one. All she knew was that she really wanted to do something related to the big and intimidating topic of the Climate Crisis.
That’s all she came to the Polygence program with - an idea that she wanted to do some sort of science experiment related to the Climate Crisis. But with the patient guidance of her mentor, they worked together to literally turn that Passion for addressing the Climate Crisis into a Project!
It was not a cookie-cutter project. It was a unique learning experience and program, as advertised. In my daughter’s case, she actually needed a lot of help getting started.
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It’s true - students come to us at various points in knowing exactly what they want to study. I’m curious - what support did your daughter get when she was trying to get her project off the ground?
I get the impression from student testimonials that many of them have a clearer idea of what they want their Polygence project to be when they start the program. I’m assuming some may have a few different specific ideas they can choose from. In Chloe’s case, she and her mentor spent their first three sessions drilling down on the topic of the different causes of climate change and then my daughter continued her assigned homework doing more research and thinking of many different types of experiments she could do before settling on one. I doubt that every student at Polygence has a similar journey.
My daughter’s mentor is extremely accomplished already in advanced and complex topics in renewable energy and sustainability, yet she was able to work with and talk to my daughter at her much more basic level. And I have to admit, I did not expect her to be as good a teacher as she was. How many of us have sat through college lectures given by famous experts in their fields and been lost or bored out of our minds?
My daughter’s mentor took her from coming up with an experiment on carbon sequestration in plants to developing it in a way that factored in variables and controls and then working with her on the research paper about her experiment giving carefully detailed notes throughout and suggestions throughout the paper. She was as good as any of my daughter’s science teachers in school, and they’ve been pretty great too.
It sounds like she had a wonderful relationship with her mentor. Did anything else stand out to you about the experience?
The Administrative team that runs Polygence and supports the mentors is incredibly proactive, enthusiastic and helpful. I had a question about my daughters progress that I emailed them and they responded quickly, thoroughly, and knowledgeably. I was surprised at how well they knew my daughter and what she was working on.
Second - Polygence really does offer a unique learning experience. I didn’t fully appreciate the benefits for a student in doing an organized academic project outside of school. I now see that with my daughter, the learning was even deeper for her than what she experiences in her school, and she goes to a very academic High School.
With Polygence, there were no tests for her to worry about, no friends or classmates to distract her. She really was able to focus on learning. And because she was working on just one project, one topic, one experiment, she has been able to absorb more of this large lesson better than most of the units that are covered in her classes in her school.
Likewise, I now realize the benefit of having a mentor as opposed to a tutor work with a student. A tutor can help a student prepare for a test or work on a paper for school. A mentor is not as confined and can bring his or her background, experiences and expertise to a lesson which ends up creating a much more energetic and unique learning experience.
The intangible that my daughter’s mentor gave to her was a huge jump in confidence. In the end, my daughter’s experiment did not produce any significant results to support the stated goal of her research. That’s definitely a large part of the scientific process.
My daughter was able to go back and isolate everything she did wrong. That shows her command of the material. She also was able to describe how she would correct those mistakes and oversights the next time she did her experiment. That shows a maturity she didn’t necessarily have before this experience.
But most importantly, my daughter was able to assess her whole journey and has come up with an idea to inform consumers about the efficiency of a plant’s carbon sequestration rate. In the end of her Polygence journey, she was able to jump from the science into the real world and into the area of marketing and sales. And that shows the extreme confidence my daughter has gained from her experience at Polygence.
My daughter was excited to work with a young woman who was already accomplished in and knowledgeable about a scientific field my daughter is interested in. And in working with a mentor who is only a few years out of college when my daughter is only a few years away from college has been incredibly inspiring for my daughter. As opposed to working with an older teacher, my daughter has had the opportunity to see and understand what academic excellence looks like and where scientific inquisitiveness can take her and to see that it looks a little like her. And perhaps this has been the most life-changing bit of knowledge my daughter has ended up gaining from the Polygence program.
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