You are here: Access Fall 2012 > Hooray for YIPEES!

Hooray for YIPEES!

By Peter T. Lyttle

2012 class The 2012 class of YIPEES visit a pegmatite mine near Amelia, Va.
Photo Credit: Eric Pyle

June 2012 saw the initiation of a new Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) opportunity for Virginia high school students called YIPEES—the Youth Intern Program in Earth and Environmental Science. Hosted by the Department of Geology and Environmental Science at James Madison University (JMU), the program provided a 2-week opportunity to live on a college campus and focused on mentored field and laboratory experiences.

YIPEES is designed for rising juniors and seniors in high school and employs JMU undergraduates as both resident advisors and assistant instructors.

In addition to JMU faculty, mentors included scientists from the USGS and the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals, and Energy (VDMME). Student nominations were collected through the Virginia Area Science Teachers Association.

The students' 2 weeks were packed with visits to VDMME and the Smithsonian Institution, which has the best gem and mineral collection in the world. Then they looked at part of a mile-long core at USGS that was drilled through the Chesapeake Bay Impact Crater. They also took field trips to a pegmatite mine (see photo above), a cave where they learned about karst terranes and water quality issues. They also took a trip to a water park, where they combined fun rides with behind-the-scenes lectures on water quality and quantity.

Photo of Dan Doctor
USGS scientist Dan Doctor teaches YIPEES about caves and karst terranes.
Photo Credit: Eric Pyle
Geologic field trip
YIPEES take a geologic field trip with Matt Heller of the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals, and Energy.
Photo Credit: Eric Pyle

The end of their 2 weeks on campus marked the beginning of a year-long science project inspired by their experiences. After choosing a project, they will be matched up with USGS and VDMME mentors as resources. They will be expected to present their results at the annual Virginia Junior Academy of Science meeting.

This year YIPEES started out small—eight students from across the Commonwealth. The goals of the program are to make this a sustainable learning experience for years to come, to better target diverse school districts for our brightest candidates, and to encourage private sector support in the future.

It was a privilege for USGS scientists to participate in this exciting and important STEM activity. Ultimately, we also hope to keep track of YIPEES, perhaps through social media such as Facebook, in order to let them know about USGS internship opportunities when they get to a university.