Fran Voll

Ohio high school juniors, seniors coming to BGSU for REAL

More than 50 high school juniors and seniors from throughout Ohio are getting REAL about environmental health this month at BGSU.

The 54 students are coming to campus for the first Regents Environmental Academy for Learning (REAL), funded with $340,000 from the Ohio Board of Regents.

After arriving Sunday evening, participants will start three weeks of classes today (June 11). Classes are scheduled from 9 a.m. to noon and 1:30-5 p.m. weekdays in 117 Olscamp Hall, followed by seminars from 7-8 p.m. in McFall Center. Field trips to the Toledo Zoo and a Toledo Mud Hens game will also be part of the program, as will a canoe trip and outings for ice skating and bowling.

Owens Community College is a partner in the academy, one of 10 statewide. They are aimed at encouraging high school juniors and seniors to study the STEM disciplines (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) and foreign languages in college, particularly in hope that the students will consider secondary teaching in those fields as a career.

Students who may not currently plan to study a STEM discipline or foreign language, or even to attend college, are targeted by the program. It will give about 500 Ohio juniors and seniors the chance to earn college credit, at no cost to them, while also meeting high school requirements.

BGSU’s academy will focus on problem-based learning approaches in environmental health science—a teaching model developed through the University’s Project EXCITE (Environmental health science eXplorations through Cross-disciplinary and Investigative Team Experiences). The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences has funded EXCITE, primarily for students in the middle grades, with about $1.8 million over the last seven years.

“We’re modifying for a higher grade level some of the curricula we developed for Project EXCITE,” said Dr. Charles “Chris” Keil, environmental health and the academy director.

The 54 students will be divided into four groups for instruction. In addition to earning college credit while their room and board is paid, they will receive a $600 stipend. They will earn credit in environmental health through BGSU and in chemistry, through Owens, while exploring environmental health issues such as “factory” farming.

In the fall, the students may choose to receive additional college credit by participating in a distance-learning section of Environmental Health 210, which addresses international environmental health issues. That course meets BGSU’s international perspectives requirement, and the University has agreed to waive instructional costs for taking it, Keil said.

Local teachers have collaborated with Bowling Green and Owens faculty to craft the academy curriculum, building on the materials and teaching approaches developed and field-tested by EXCITE. High school teachers are also joining BGSU and Owens faculty and Bowling Green undergraduate students to form the three-member teaching teams instructing the REAL students.

The goal for the juniors and seniors, Keil said, “is to get them in here and give them a really positive experience” with both science and the University.

June 11, 2007