Governor’s School at GMU Offers Rigorous Program for STEM Students

| November 1, 2013 | 0 Comments | Education

Governor's School students work with their robotics adverser on building and programing robotic vehicles that can move automatically and via controls.

While eighth grade students are considering which specialty programs to apply to, those interested in attending the Governor’s School at Innovation Park on the George Mason campus in Manassas should begin preparing for the program as early as their seventh grade year. As the program requires students take Alegebra I in middle school, it is never too early for qualified STEM students to consider applying for the program.

The Governor’s School’s mission is to prepare high school students for college with a concentrations in STEM subjects [science, technology, engineering and mathematics] so to better prepare them for the in-demand, high-paying and intellectually stimulating careers of the future.

The highly selective school accepts approximately 115 juniors and seniors annually from Prince William County, City of Manassas and Manassas Park to attend specially designed college-level courses taught by teachers and professors on George Mason University’s Manassas campus at no cost to parents. They even provide transportation from students’ base high schools.

While students remain immersed in high school life, taking classes with other high school students and returning to their base school in the afternoon, the classes they take at George Mason from 7:30-11 a.m. Monday through Friday are challenging, rigorous and designed to prepare them for college-level academics.

“Really, because we are on the university campus, we have access to a lot of the professors who are researchers and a lot of biochemistry professors. [The students] are able to seek mentors here on campus, and work in the labs with those mentors,” said Governor’s School Director, Karen Dalfrey.

Dalfrey said Governor’s School students receive mentorships from leaders in the fields of science and technology, including scientists and engineers at Lockheed Martin, Micron and JTC Technology to name a just a few.

“We’re lucky to have that wealth of human resources around us. [Business partners] mentor students to build robots, rockets and to take on cyber security challenges,” she said.

Dalfrey recommended that students consider the depth of their interest in science and technology before deciding which specialty program to attend.

“[To attend the Governor’s School] they should have an interest in science and an aptitude as well. Really, it’s the passion for STEM that drives their success,” she said.

Governor's School students work collaboratively in their research symposium.

Even students in the seventh grade are encouraged to attend the information nights, since there is a prerequisite of Algebra I by eighth grade so that students can complete Algebra II/Trigonometry by the end of their tenth grade year. However, not all students will be accepted into the program. While grades are a consideration, students are also required to take a math/science aptitude test and complete a research project.

Yet, the reward for participating in the rigorous program is enormous. Students graduate with a greater feel for what they would like to major in once they get to college, since Governor School graduates have already explored entry level STEM courses.

“Many of them come in thinking they are going to major in science, and most of them leaving majoring in engineering,” Dalfrey said.

She said it’s a great fit, since engineers are so sought after in this country, yet most high school students never get a chance to take an engineering class.

Dalfrey also believes the Governor’s School students themselves create a positive environment. While most of the students are used to being top in their high school classes, when placed among equally motivated, intellectual peers they feel inspired to achieve and delve deeper into their subject matter.

Dalfrey suggests students who want to attend the Governor’s School make it a priority early on, warning that Governor’s School students cannot co-participate as a candidate for graduation in other rigorous specialty programs. However, many Governor’s School students do take advanced liberal arts classes back at their base schools.

Once students enter the program, Dalfrey expects they will notice a marked difference in how their classes are taught.

“It is taught at a higher level of thinking and a higher level of content; we go into much more depth with the students,” Dalfrey said.

The Governor’s School also scaffolds their students to reach the college level aptitude in other subjects through working with faculty and alongside peers who are expected to collaborate as well as critique each other.

“I think they like the different types of learning, the independence of learning here, and I think the mindset is very different and very positive. They like the additional challenge, because now they are amongst others who enjoy being challenged beyond what you would see at a typical high school,” said Dalfrey.

Students and parent of middle and high school students interested in Governor’s School at Innovation Park on the George Mason Campus should attend an information session on Nov. 2 at 10 a.m. in the Verizon Auditorium of the Occoquan Building on the George Mason University Prince William Campus.


© 2013, Bristow Beat. All rights reserved.

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