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Governor's Honors Academy Teaches Students to Think Critically
FAIRMONT — The three-week Governor’s Honors Academy kicked off Monday at Fairmont State University with 185 West Virginia high school juniors in attendance.
Attendees each enrolled in two classes — one intensive and one broad-based — designed to teach them to consider not only what they are thinking, but why and how they are thinking.
“One of the great things about the academy is that the students are asked to think more deeply and more critically,” Academy Dean Dr. J. Robert Baker said.
The theme of this year’s academy is “The Sustainable Life,” and several of the courses available for students are based upon that theme.
“We want students to be multidimensional,” Director of the Governors’ Schools of West Virginia Sherry Keffer said. “We want this to be known as ‘cool school,’ because having the ability to perform well in school and think well really is a cool thing.”
She said the environment of the program is designed to be safe, not just physically, but also intellectually and educationally so that students are comfortable exploring new paths of thought.
“This is a game changer,” Keffer said. “The students grow not only academically, but also emotionally. They learn so much more about themselves.”
Marshall University journalism Professor Dan Hollis is in his 16th year of teaching classes at the academy. He said intelligent students are too frequently allowed to embark on notable life courses that may not actually be in tune with who they are as human beings.
“They have expectations of what they’re supposed to do in life,” Hollis said. “Part of (the academy) is to shake up their world and challenge them a little bit.”
The students’ first session of the day is their intensive class, which is akin to a college major. Their second daily class is the more general class designed to give them a taste of a separate area of learning.
The classes are taught tangibly so the incoming juniors can understand concepts to which students typically aren’t exposed until college.
“I was expecting a little more class than so much hands-on,” Ty Bayliss of Hurricane said. “It’s a lot more loose and fun than I expected.”
Bayliss’ intensive class is “Science sustains us; what sustains science?” For his broad-based class, he chose “Sustaining America: Cultural dreamscapes in the United States.”
Maggie LaFear of Huntington learned a lot about objectivity and subjectivity in the first day of her intensive class.
“We talked about what qualifies as art and what qualifies as music,” LaFear said. “I like stuff that makes me think outside the box.”
Lake Bottom resident James Dishner is excited for his intensive class entitled “The green hills of wonder.” He’s taking the cultural dreamscapes class along with Bayliss as a broad-based course.
“I want to learn new things, meet new people and expand myself,” Dishner said. “I’m sure it will be useful sometime in the future.”
The students leave this week for a two-day trip to Washington, D.C., where they will view the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution and a portion of the Bill of Rights before touring the Holocaust Museum.
“We’ll have them talk about the experiences they’re having,” Baker said. “Not just in a pedantic way, but we encourage students to think about these type of things.”
The students will also watch the Washington, D.C. fireworks display from the west steps of the Capitol Building.
Zach Tuggle http://www.theet.com/ (304) 626-1404 or email@example.com