DECATUR – Not even the sky has to be the limit for high school juniors who sign up for Millikin University's new Summer Academy.
Observational astronomy and photography is among the academy's five course offerings, giving students the chance to earn six to seven college credits over a three-week period.
“They'll take one class in the morning and another in the afternoon, with other activities – some of them social – planned for evenings and weekends,” said English professor Randy Brooks, dean of arts and sciences. “Some of the students will be living on campus, so in that sense it will feel like a camp experience.”
Commuter and residential students are welcome to apply as long as they are nominated by a high school teacher.
Brooks, who will teach an academy class in “Global Haiku Traditions,” said he has fielded inquiries from high school principals, parents, students and advanced placement teachers so far.
“These courses are not requirements to get out of the way,” he said. “They are designed to demonstrate how much fun learning can be.”
Other choices will include “Graphs in Culture” taught by mathematics professor Jim Rauff, “From Flasks to the Field and Back” taught by biology professor Judy Parrish and associate biology professors Sam Galewsky and Jen Schroeder, and “Doing History: The 1960s” taught by assistant history professor Brian Mullgardt.
Most of the courses, as such, have never before been taught at Millikin.
The environmental biology class, for example, draws from the particular expertise of three different teachers in classifying species of plants and animals.
“It is a course we could have been teaching, but it was designed for this group of students,” Parrish said. “We'll ask the same kinds of questions but explore a variety of ways of getting the answers.”
The syllabus includes three days of field study at Lake Shelbyville.
Rauff said he took pieces of two existing math classes to create one that would be accessible to high school students.
He plans to teach how graphs can help you model and understand complex relationships in the real world.
“A family tree is a kind of graph,” Rauff said. “So is a circle of friends on Facebook, the routes for delivery companies and the settlement pattern at an archaeological site.”
Mullgardt said his history students won't be spending all their time in the classroom but also going to area libraries to do their research.
“I was a high school teacher for almost a decade,” Mullgardt said, “and I'll be looking for motivated students just like always.”
The cost for commuters, who must live within 45 miles of campus, is $2,600, and that for residential students is $3,250, and Brooks said the academy can enroll up to 50 students.
Dan Miller, professor and chair of mathematics, will teach “Observational Astronomy and Astro-photography.”
“Every night that it's clear, we're going to take pictures,” Miller said. “We can say, 'It's going to clear up at midnight, we'll meet at midnight.' We get good pictures even when the weather is marginal, we have such large telescopes here.”