University of North Texas to host high school sophomores at Texas Governor's School this summer

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

For many high school students, science courses consist mainly of memorizing information such as the atomic numbers for chemical elements, the scientific names of plants and animals, definitions of physics terms and other data.

This summer, however, approximately 150 students from around Texas will learn about the roles that science and technology have played in history, ethics in science, and science and technology in music, among other topics, as they attend the Texas Governor's School at the University of North Texas.

The residential program, which is funded by the Texas Legislature and is free to selected students, will begin June 10 and end June 30. With a theme of "The Future of Science and Technology in Our World," the Governor's School will provide students with courses to develop their abilities in science and technology and explore the impact of these fields on past, current and future societies.

Governor's Schools started in 1963 in response to widespread concern over the level of support in American society for educational excellence necessary to maintain the United States as a leader in producing professionals skilled in science, technology, humanities and the arts. The first Governor's School was established in North Carolina. Today, the programs are offered in 22 states.

In Texas, a three-week summer Governor's School called the Texas Honors Leadership Program has been offered at Lamar University for 18 years. UNT was chosen for the first Texas Governor's School in science in part because of its success in establishing and maintaining the Texas Academy of Mathematics and Science, a two-year early residential program that allows talented students to complete their freshman and sophomore years of college while earning their high school diplomas.

Students enroll in the academy following their sophomore year in high school, live in a UNT residence hall and attend UNT classes with college students. After two years, they enroll at UNT or another university to finish their bachelor's degrees.

All students chosen for the Texas Governor's School at UNT will be entering their sophomore years of high school this fall. During the three weeks of the school, they will take courses focusing on biological and medical science, physical science, chemistry and technology and engineering, as well as courses covering the broad impacts of science and technology. They will also attend courses to learn how to prepare for college and to develop their writing skills.

The students will complete assignments for the courses, but will not receive grades or high school credit, said Dr. Rick Reidy, UNT associate professor of materials science and engineering and director of the Texas Governor's School.

Reidy said the ideal student for the school is a high achiever who has demonstrated interest and ability in science and technology beyond required high school assignments or participation in science fairs. He or she should also be curious about the impact of research and technology on society, he said.

"My goal is for the students at the Texas Governor's School to see new concepts and ideas in science that they won't see in high school and even during their freshman year in college," he said. "I want the students to leave here with the ability to think beyond their previous course work, and to look at the world a little bit differently after hearing others' viewpoints."

The science courses, which will be team taught by a UNT faculty member and a secondary school teacher, will have time for discussing new scientific concepts, he said.

"Kids who do science don't realize that the fun of science isn't always getting answers, but asking new questions," Reidy said.

In the writing course, students will be taught by up to six instructors and work on different writing techniques, including technical writing and essay writing for college applications, he said. Students will also write about the key ideas in a book they will be sent before the Texas Governor's School begins. In addition, they will learn how to do research in a university library.

In the college preparation class, the students will examine their academic goals and create a plan for their remaining high school and college years.

Reidy said he hopes the students will continue learning outside of class by being divided into small discussion groups. Each coed group of 10 students, who will be led by UNT students hired as resident assistants for the Texas Governor's School residence hall, will be assigned to one of three houses - social and academic communities that will each sponsor at least one social event and have friendly competitions against the other houses.

House systems are familiar to many high school students, thanks to the Harry Potter novels and movies and the four houses in the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Some U.S. colleges and universities use house systems.

Reidy, who was in a house as an undergraduate at Rice University, said the Texas Governor's School houses will be led by UNT students acting as mentors. Each house will include five small discussion groups, and the five resident assistants and the mentor will help the students forge an identity for their house. The students may also create a video yearbook for their house, Reidy said.

"It's important for a student to have the chance to interact with the other participants right away, and when you're assigned to a house, the first people you will meet will be the others in the house," he said.

Applications are still being accepted for the Texas Governor's School. Applications may be downloaded at http://web3.unt.edu/tgs.

For more information, contact Reidy at txgovschool@unt.edu.

UNT News Service Phone Number: (940) 565-2108

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