U School: planting seeds for a university education
Communities, here in Alberta and the world over, are looking ahead to a future that is different from today. Experts predict that by 2020, 70 per cent of jobs will require post-secondary education qualifications. Yet, many of Alberta’s young people are choosing not to attend university or college; this trend is most pronounced in the underserved populations of Aboriginal, low-income and immigrant communities.
The University of Alberta Senate is taking action. In collaboration with Edmonton’s Inquiring Minds program, Chancellor Linda Hughes and her team have opened the doors of U School—a week-long educational adventure on campus for Grades 4 to 9, exposing classes of kids to the excitement of learning and discovery at the university.
What do kids study at U School? They might plunge into the depths of ancient Greek philosophy or contemplate the origins of 10,000–year-old human bones. After a quick game of Hoops and Arrows, they might learn more about Alberta’s Aboriginal history. Making a batch of plastic might follow a fascinating look behind the scenes of the Timms Centre for the Arts. The exact dimensions of the experience are shaped to fit into the curricular needs of participants, but the emphasis always falls on breadth and variety.
“One of the best things U School did for some of our students was open their eyes to a new possibility,” Grade 5 teacher Karen Irwin says. “They had no idea that you could study so many things at the university and started to look at the university as an exciting place they would like to be. Our students didn’t want the week to end.”