History of PGSS

Expansion: Pennsylvania Governor's School for Science

The success enjoyed by the PGSA confirmed to many that the "living-learning" format worked, and worked well. As the chairman for the Education Department at one university had said, "The school and its work never ceases to amaze me. This is a great, great work." Meanwhile, the "living-learning" approach for gifted children was working in other states as well. And it seemed, the success was not limited only to the fine arts.

States such as North Carolina, Virginia and Maryland all offered "Governor's Schools" for talented students in a variety of academic areas. Talented students in areas such as mathematics or the sciences could attend a summer residency camp where they were able to work and learn together with college professors and professionals in their field. Beginning in the late 1970's, such programs began to get significant national attention. The national news media was beginning to discover how these new programs were able to fill a void in America's basic education scheme.

In its October 23, 1978 publication, Newsweek Magazine ran an article called "The Gifted Child," outlining the common neglect of gifted students by educators. Dr. Harold Lyon, the director of the Federal Office for the Gifted and Talented who had earlier visited and praised the PGSA, had this to say about the treatment of gifted students: "They come from all levels of society, all races and both sexes. These are the future Beethovens, the Newtons, the Jeffersons, the Picassos, Baldwins and Martin Luther Kings. And like other minorities, they need help."

The article continued by describing ways in which educators were trying to meet these needs. Particular attention was called to several states that provided academic summer programs called "Governor Schools." Newsweek said the following when describing the programs of Virginia and Maryland:

Pupils for Virginia's 'Governor's School,' four-week sessions at three Virginia colleges, are selected from schools across the state for extraordinary academic or artistic talent. They take courses ranging from Asian studies and dance to physics and drama. Maryland youngsters work in a similar program at nine sites around the state. At Frostburg State College, for example, last summer's crop learned about forestry and fishery sciences, while at St. Joseph's College, their peers concentrated on madrigal singing, painting, drawing, and drama. The idea is to give the children a chance to do things that are simply not available in their hometown school. "It's an experience in learning for the fun of it," says Virginia's Isabelle Rucker, "The kids applaud it, they're eager to go in there and dig, and they pick your brain until it's sore."

With these cross-curriculum successes enjoyed by other states publicly noted, the Pennsylvania Department of Education began to consider expanding the offer of the Governor's Schools of Excellence to gifted students outside of the arts.

Pennsylvania Governor's School for Science

The Department of Education knew that the time was right to expand the Governor's Schools of Excellence to include another subject besides the fine arts, thus adding another school. But what subject should be added? After much thought, the Department decided on the sciences. Why science? In their rationale for the creation of a school for the Sciences, the Department addresses this very question quite clearly. Thus, I shall quote them at length.

The recent National Assessment of Educational Progress and College Board data have indicated that Pennsylvania ranks significantly behind several other states in student achievement and enrollment in science and mathematics at the secondary school level. While several other states, notably those located in the so-called Sun Belt, have launched a major scholastic effort in promoting excellence in science and technology, no such effort currently exists in the Commonwealth.

On the other hand, recent studies have shown that the nation as a whole is rapidly falling behind both friendly and rival nations and open opponents in the area of student preparation in the sciences and technology. This situation could result in disastrous consequences for our national well-being in future years.

The urgent problems facing Pennsylvanians today, including the maintenance of a quality environment and the assurance of a dependable energy supply, embrace a significant and technological component as a part of their solutions. This is also true of the reindustrialization effort which will be required in order to revitalize Pennsylvania's industrial capacity.

It is recognized that a vital part of the effort to improve the economic climate of the Commonwealth will be the initiative of innovative, highly technologically-oriented small businesses. These businesses must be assured of an adequate supply of scientifically trained consultants and employees in order to compete successfully with similar businesses in other states.

Another aspect of economic revitalization will be the attraction of individuals and industries to settle in Pennsylvania. An important part of this effort will be to make known to such individuals and industries that in Pennsylvania they will find an intellectual and business climate which places a premium upon human capital as our most precious investment in the future.

The success of these efforts is necessarily linked with the education and training of Pennsylvania's youth in sciences and technology. There exists a need for a call to excellence, attracting our ablest and most talented youths to pursue careers in scientific and technologically-oriented fields."

In essence, the logic of those proposing a School for the Sciences ran as follows. First, an observation was made that Pennsylvania's secondary students were not as competitive with other states and nations as they could be. This was thought to lead to a disadvantage to other states in the ongoing competition for companies, and thus jobs, within a given market. The location of corporations and companies in other states meant an exodus of the leading college graduates in the sciences to these other states. Furthermore, within a given market, medium and small Pennsylvania businesses would not be able to compete, leading to a slowing economy in the Commonwealth. Finally on a larger level, those proposing the addition of a School for the Sciences recognized Pennsylvania as a microcosm for the scientific woes of the United States. Unless Pennsylvania and other reform-minded states acted, our "open opponents" would surpass us and spell put the country at great peril. In regards to this latter prediction, one cannot help but notice that the famous report "A Nation At Risk," published by the President's Commission, was completed the same year and came to similar conclusions.

In order to overcome a lack of specific authorization for the Department of Education to receive and expend funds for the additional school, legislation was sought to provide authorization for the operation of the Pennsylvania Governor's School for the Sciences. On April 28, 1982 Senator Hess introduced Senate Bill 1425, amending the Public School Code of 1949 (P.L. 30, No. 14) to provide for the establishment of the Pennsylvania Governor's School for the Sciences. The bill was strongly supported by the Department of Education and the Governor's Office and there was "no known opposition." It was not surprising then that the bill was enacted by the General Assembly of the Commonwealth and section 1927 was added to the Public School Code of 1949 reading:

Pennsylvania School for the Sciences—The Department of Education shall establish a program of extension education for scientifically talented school age persons who are residents of this Commonwealth. The program shall be known as the Pennsylvania School for the Sciences. Admission to the program shall be on a competitive basis according to the standards and regulations promulgated by the department and a tuition fee may be required for all or part of the cost. The department shall have the authority to receive and expend Federal, State and other public or private funds for the establishment, operation or management of the program.

John McDermott, science education advisor for the Department of Education assumed the leadership role for 1982 and was supervised by Clyde McGeary and David Campbell. The Pennsylvania School for the Sciences took a different direction from most of the earlier attempts in providing advanced instruction for talented students. While most previous attempts centered around "watered down" college level courses in the traditional disciplines, concentration at the School for Sciences would be focused on extraordinary and unique experiences and opportunities not available to students in their home districts. From the earliest stages of planning, activities such as the use and understanding of computers, excursions to the "cutting edge" of human knowledge, research participation, the use of a research library, familiarization with the most sophisticated tools of scientific research, and special field trips to laboratories were to be emphasized.

PGSS Goals and Objectives

Upon its formation in 1982, the Pennsylvania Department of Education established the following goals for the Pennsylvania Governor's School for Science (known then as the Pennsylvania School for the Sciences):

  1. To identify an encourage students who show exceptional promise as potential scientists and engineers to continue their efforts in a technical discipline;
  2. To develop a new, advanced level curriculum that will aid these students in expanding their capabilities and interests;
  3. To foster and reward excellence and creativity among secondary school students by identifying and including them in this unique enrichment experience;
  4. To especially encourage able women and minority students to consider scientific careers;
  5. To encourage local school districts to upgrade their science programs, increasing the quality and diversity of their offerings;
  6. To emphasize the vital role of science and technology in our society and the impact of society upon scientific endeavor;
  7. To train student leaders, who, upon return to their local school districts, will serve as role models for their peers;
  8. and To provide scientists as role models for students participants.

At a meeting prior to the first program, the PGSS faculty established the following objectives as a means of attaining the goals presented above:

  1. To provide an opportunity for highly talented students in Pennsylvania to satisfy their curiosity about a wide range of topics in science, technology, and mathematics;
  2. To provide an opportunity for these students to participate in hands-on laboratory research work;
  3. To provide them an opportunity to become exposed to scientific concepts, laboratory facilities, and professional scientists and mathematicians not normally provided or available in any high school;
  4. To participate in a team project designed to allow the student the opportunity to engage in original work in a cooperative atmosphere;
  5. To use this program as an instrument of career selection;
  6. To help the student learn that science and technology are rewarding and exciting careers to follow, and can be fun;
  7. To help the students become self-motivating and self-disciplining.

In early 1982 a challenge grant of $51,800 was given by the Pennsylvania Science and Engineering Foundation to fund a Pennsylvania School for the Sciences, "a summer program for scientifically gifted secondary school students similar to the highly successful Governor's School for the Arts." The first year, 1982, was to be run with private funds only. John McDermott, the Senior Program Advisor of the pilot program, thought that the program could be run on a $100,000 budget the first year. This entire sum was donated by foundations and private sources, thus financially enabling the program to move forward. With the finances secured, McDermott began to search for colleges and universities who might be interested in hosting the School for the Sciences.

The requirements for prospective host institutions were delineated in an official "Request for Proposals" for the Pennsylvania School for the Sciences.

The Pennsylvania Department of Education hereby invited Institutions of Higher Education located within the Commonwealth to submit to the Department on or before March 1, 1982 a proposal to serve as the host institution for the Pennsylvania School for the Sciences. The host institution will provide classroom and laboratory facilities, health services and recreational facilities suitable for approximately 60 students and will provide a staff of approximately 20 adult faculty members for a five week period during the summer of 1982. Provision will also be made for office space equipped with appropriate furnishings, equipment and telephone service. Meeting facilities of sufficient size to house the entire student body, faculty, and a reasonable number of guests will be made available upon request. All normally available facilities such as libraries, bookstores, cafeterias, and recreational facilities will be made available to the Pennsylvania School for the Sciences students, faculty and staff.

Schools interested in hosting the Pennsylvania Governor's School for the Sciences included Temple, Penn State, Widener, and Carnegie-Mellon University. All four schools developed proposals that included the design and development of a full five-week program to be implemented in the event that they were selected. After careful evaluation and rating of each school, the Department of Education chose the Carnegie-Mellon University to host the PGSS for 1982.

The proposal by Carnegie-Melon called for a pilot-program to be fully developed in detail by the Executive Director of the School (appointed by the Department of Education), an institutional facilitator from the CMU regular science faculty; and a curriculum advisory committee. The program would include around 60 "exceptionally talented" high school students. The rest of the program was summarized by Carnegie-Mellon in the following manner.

The five-week long instructional program would include exposure to contemporary concepts in biological sciences, chemistry, computer science, mathematics and physics including various advanced studies, discussion of recent discoveries, guest lectures, field trips, and active participation in laboratory research and computer programming. Interaction with the industrial community would be an important component of the program to be fostered through visits and guest lectures. The relationship between scientific technology and societal problems would be accentuated. Career and leadership guidance would be provided. The full program would be rounded out by cultural components in the humanities and the arts. It is hoped that a Pennsylvania School for the Sciences at Carnegie-Mellon University would be a worthy a logical complement to the successful Pennyslvania School for the Arts at Bucknell University in Lewisburg.

Albert A. Caretto was named Director of the School for the Sciences.

PGSS 1982

The PGSS for 1982 was funded primarily by the Department of Education but also received contributions from the Buhl Foundation, the Pittsburgh Foundation, the Howard Heinz Endowment, and the Fisher Charitable Trust. Fifty-two students participated in this first program.

The school lasted from July 11 to August 14, 1982. While the program certainly complemented the PGSA in that many of the "living-learning" features were continued—residency requirements, on-campus housing, intensive scheduling, the nature of the subject matter required a slightly different program format. Students at the Governor's School for the Sciences in 1982 were enrolled in special courses in the following areas: Molecular Biology, Chemistry, Concepts of Modern Physics, Discrete Mathematics, Computer Science, and Statistics. (These courses made up a student's "core" courses)? In addition to these "core" courses, students could choose up to two elective courses in areas such as Organic Chemistry, Nuclear Chemistry, Cosmochemistry, Population Dynamics, Computational Physics, and Biochemistry. Each student also participated in laboratory courses in Biology, Chemistry, or Physics.

In keeping with the principle that beginnings are essential to any project just as the foundation is of great importance to any construct or edifice, a detailed account of the first School for the Sciences will be given here in much the same manner as for the early years of PGSA. Already having discussed much of the relevant background information, let's examine the actual events during the first summer of the School. 1

Similarly to the PGSA, faculty members arrived early on campus for a brief in-service. Atthis "inservice orientation," the curriculum goals and objectives for the Pennsylvania School for the Sciences were discussed at length. Presentations were made on the "Characteristics and Working Conditions for Gifted Students," "Characteristics of the Pennsylvania School for the Sciences Student," and on "Counseling, Tutoring and Career Guidance for the Pennsylvania School for the Sciences Students." The faculty, teaching assistants, and counselors were selected by a curriculum committee made up of professors at Carnegie-Mellon. The committee took into account the background needed to successfully teach a uniquely gifted class of students. The teaching assistants and counselors were selected from a pool of Carnegie-Mellon University undergraduate students who had applied for the positions. Each candidate was required to be a major in the Mellon College of Science and must have at least completed his or her sophomore year. The criteria for their selection was based on "grades, reliability in assuming responsibility, and social maturity."

Students and their parents arrived on the campus of the Carnegie-Mellon University for the first day of the program on Sunday, July 11, 1982. Students and parents were given an orientation to both the campus and the program in which the objectives and goals of the program were described. The students came from throughout the state and were selected in the following manner, established and administered by the Department of Education.

Announcements and applications were sent to each public and private high school in the state. Each of the state's twenty-nine Intermediate Units reviewed the applications from students in his or her area and sent their recommendations to the Department of Education. The Department of Education selected at least one student from each Intermediate Unit and twenty-three additional students rated by them[selves] as the top students from across the state.2

After the parents had departed, the students were administered a "Background Survey Examination." The examination consisted of six parts. The first part concerned biographical information. These questions were used to develop a profile of the 1982 student body.3 The other five parts of the examination consisted of subject area questions in biology, chemistry, physics, mathematics, and computer science. These results were then compared with the results of an evaluation towards the end of the program to determine student progression.

The students were also given information about the core courses and the electives and given a basic schedule. On average, students began their day with classes at 8:30 am and ended with about 2 hours of study time that was to be concluded by around 11:20. However, at times classes would last until 10:20 at night. For a copy of the schedule for the third week of the program, please see Appendix B

As was mentioned earlier, students took courses in biology, chemistry, computer science, mathematics, and physics. The students were also given workshops and assistance in education guidance, career counseling, and leadership. Additionally all students took laboratory research courses and were offered a variety of elective courses. For complete course descriptions, please see the Appendix.4.

Every student participated in a team project, involving "the investigation of an original problem or the solution of a problem by techniques original to the investigators." Project topics were developed in courses related to the students' interests—generally broken down into five areas: Biology, chemistry, mathematics, physics, and computer science. During the course in the relateds cience, a number of topics were suggested by the instructor. Students interested in a particular topic formed a group or "team." The students then worked together independently of the instructor and outside of class time to complete the project. Students shared the results of their efforts before the assembled body of there peers and faculty on the last day of the program. The results of these projects were also compiled into a published journal, Journal of the Pennsylvania School for the Sciences: Class of 1982.

Team projects included an attempt to determine the functional relationships between the genes and gene products of the lactose operon in Escherichia coli, a study of the effects of acid drainage from coal mines on water sources, the development of a computer adventure game called Oasis, a study of population dynamics through a population model, and an investigation into the stability of stellar orbits in "globular starclusters." The projects were interesting and well done. In the words of Dr. A. Caretto, University Director of the Pennyslvania School for the Sciences, the projects and their presentation "were very professional."

Having examined some of the specific courses and projects completed by the students, it would be helpful to grasp a basic understanding of the general flow of the course. So that we might gain some additional insights into the character and feeling of the program, let's examine at length some observations made by Program Director Albert A. Caretto.

  • Week One: The first week proceeded quite smoothly. Most of the students registered far too many courses, perhaps intentionally since they were told that they could drop a course at any time. The School Director encouraged them to register as many courses as they would like in the hope that their final selection above the core sequence would be based primarily on interest and motivation. The rather complicated class schedule was worked out such that there was a minimum of class conflict.

    Friendships were developing and they became a close social group in only a few days time. They began to find that nearly 12 hours a day of academics plus additional time for homework did not give them enough time to lead a "normal" existence. For most, the work required was far more than they had ever experienced. They found that they were forced to make choices among giving up some of their elective courses or extra laboratories, and to learn how to budget their time. By the end of the first week, they requested that the amount of homework be reduced. When informed of this situation by the Director, the faculty quickly responded with modifications. The demands of the Computer Science course, however, remained a problem. For most of the students, the computer course alone required 10 to 15 hours per week. Interestingly, a number of students felt that they should have no homework at all. Apparently, several were used to doing all their high school homework assignments, if any, in school and thus were unhappy to find that the only time to do homework at the PSS was on their own time in the evenings or on weekends.
  • Week Two: Many students realized that their work loads were, in fact, truly unmanageable and adjusted their schedules accordingly by eliminating elective courses of lesser interest. Most students had difficulty accepting the philosophy that no penalty would be given for unsatisfactory performance. In fact, many exhibited a considerable amount of confusion and frustration with a system which was placing nearly impossible demands on them, but then not "punishing" them for incompletion. Nevertheless, many students realized toward the end of the program that this self-motivating influence was perhaps the most beneficial aspect of the program.

    Most of the students by this time realized the powerful opportunity offered by the School and did not want to waste it. They were beginning to feel the forces of their own self- motivation. It was also pointed out to the students that the faculty of the school would be happy to provide letters of recommendation and this was a further force to make them want to do well.
  • Week Three: Most of the student adjustments had taken place and the school was functioning smoothly. There was a considerable increase in their maturity in this period. Many were surprised at the extent of their internal motivation. Many of these students had never before been challenged academically and were responding in a very positive manner. The result of these drives provided a powerful enhancement of self-esteem. Many were discovering that they had seriously underestimated their own abilities.

    It was also during this period that they began to make pranks and jokes, which were often very creative. They were considerably more relaxed than in the preceding two weeks since many were beginning to feel that they would be able to benefit profitably from the program. It was also this period which saw about seven students come down with an intestinal virus. One girl was affected so badly that her mother brought her home for two days. She returned, however, and all the students participated in the program until the end. One student left two days before the end of the program because of a death in the family.
  • Week Four: A new problem was perceived by most of the students. They realized that time was passing quickly and they had much to accomplish on their team projects. Since their results would be published in the Journal of the Pennsylvania School for the Sciences, it became essential that their contribution[s] have merit. Many worried about having a blank page headed by their names if their project didn't materialize on time. It was during this period that the students worked very hard. In order to finish their work, they would ask for extra time in the terminal room after curfew. In addition,they worked Saturdays from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., met with faculty advisors at 7:00 a.m., and gave up social events on Sundays. No special allotment of time was designated for the team projects so they had to find the necessary time in their already very busy schedules. They were very innovative. They really used the concept of team effort. One group even used the computer to store the data obtained by various team members. In that way, when any one of them had some free time, he would have all the team's data to date available in front of him.
  • Week Five: Work on the team projects continued, although at a hectic pace. For most of the student body, the team project was one of the most rewarding active experiences. A number of the students were clearly excited and enthusiastic about the results they were acquiring for the team project. There is no question that during the last week, the team project occupied the students' time and thoughts in a major way. Many of the students realized they had matured socially, academically and personally in the preceding five weeks. On the Friday morning of the last day of the program, the students presented the results of their projects to the assembled body and the total PSS faculty. Their discourses were excellent. They were poised, at ease, confident, and lucid. The scientific level of their work was impressive. They used slides, overhead projectors, and fielded questions in a very professional manner. Their final team project reports were superb. Many of the students used computer word-processing techniques, learned in their computer science course, to prepare their accompanying written reports.

The journal-like narrative provided for us by Dr. Caretto highlights many of the important changes in student attitude that would otherwise have gone unnoticed. For example, his testimony clearly indicates a dramatic difference in the disposition of the students' attitudes. Although they struggled to meet the challenges at first, and were inclined to complain that they were not able to meet the expectations placed on them, by the program's conclusion they had responded well—having exceeded all expectations with their projects and presentations. This response is a clear indication that the advanced level curriculum provided by the School did indeed "aid these students in expanding their capabilities and interests," as expressed in the program goals.

1982 Program Evaluation and Analysis

The 1982 program of the Pennsylvania Schools for Science was evaluated using six different instruments: 1). A comparison of student responses to pre-program and post-program evaluations; 2). Student responses to questionnaires designed to evaluate each course; 3). Answers to questions designed to measure how the program accomplished various goals and objectives; 4). A questionnaire designed by the Pennsylvania Department of Education and administered to the students on the last day of the program; 5). A Follow-up evaluation and, 6). Student anecdotal responses.

Several of the instruments prompted interesting responses. Take, for example, the first instrument: pre-test and post-test comparisons of the students' scientific backgrounds. The class average on the chemistry background survey (most of the questions were typical of advanced placement chemistry questions and did not directly reflect the material covered in the core chemistry course) before the program was 16%. The class average after the program was 54%. Thirty-three of the fifty-two students more than doubled their "before" to "after" scores. Forty- five of the fifty-two students exhibited a "definite improvement" in their understanding of chemistry. The Biology "before" and "after" scores indicated an even dramatic improvement. Only 38% of the students scored more than 50% on the background survey before the program, while 84% scored higher than 50% after the program.5 Please check the Appendix for further results.

When asked to complete the following statement, "The most important thing I have learned about myself from the PSS program..." the majority of students answered that they learned that they can compete in tough classes with intelligent students or that they are suited for college academic life. When asked whether they would recommend a friend who has "as much academic ability as myself" to apply for next years PSS program, almost every student replied that they should definitely apply because although it is a lot of work, you learn a tremendous amount and have lots of fun.

A follow-up survey completed by the students one year after graduation showed that the students from the class of 1982 were very successful and attributed part of their success to the School for the Sciences. Students from 1982 were accepted at schools such as M.I.T. (5), Harvard/Radcliffe (3), Princeton (4), John Hopkins (2), Yale, Stanford, Swarthmore, and Carnegie-Mellon (3). Out of 32 respondents, 27 replied yes when asked if they thought that their experience at PSS helped their acceptance to their college or university of choice. Students also thought that the program on a whole helped them become aware of career options or confirmed their desire to major in the sciences. In fact, all respondents but one had decided to major in the sciences in college. There were also indications that the School for the Sciences gave the students an opportunity to form valuable friendships with like-minded peers. All but two of the respondents stated that they maintained contact with other PSS students and faculty a year after graduation.

In final analysis it would appear that the experimental program for a Governor's School for the Sciences enjoyed the same success that the Fine Arts Pilot Project had from 1967-1969. In the case of the 1982 program, as well as the 1967 program, the viability of a summer program for outstanding students was adequately demonstrated. A contract between the Carnegie-Mellon University and the Department of Education for the operation of the 1990 PGSS states that this "experimental program developed in 1982 demonstrated the feasibility of a summer, five-week residency program for talented high school students in the sciences, including: biology, chemistry, computer science, mathematics, physics, career awareness and leadership...[this program] has enjoyed great success."

Noting the success of the first year, Carnegie-Mellon applied for, and received, the opportunity to host a similar program in 1983. The objectives for the program were virtually the same as that of the previous year's pilot project. Specifically, "To provide an opportunity for highly talented students in Pennsylvania to satisfy their curiosity about a wide range of topics in science, technology, and mathematics" and "to encourage the talented student attendees to continue to pursue studies in technical disciplines."

The program was quickly achieving a level of popularity. In 1983 over 3,000 high school sophomores and juniors from across the state submitted applications. The competition was quite healthy: Only sixty of applicants were selected to participate. Selection Officials from the Department of Education reviewed the applications that had been pre-screened by the Intermediate Units and selected one student from each of the twenty-nine Intermediate Units. The remaining thirty-one students were selected by the Department of Education based on the recommendations of the Intermediate Units.

The academic program itself was very similar to that of 1982. As before, the academic requirements included the five core courses: chemistry, biology, physics, computer science, and mathematics. However, each student had to take all five courses for the first two week and after this time each student was permitted to drop up to two courses. Additionally, each student was required to take at least one laboratory course and participate in a team project.

Despite continuity of format and approach, a few changes were made to the 1983 program based on the observations and experiences from 1982. Faculty noticed in 1982 that the students had a dissimilar academic background. Because some students had only completed their sophomore year of high school, many of them had never been exposed to chemistry or physics. Conversely, students who had completed their junior year were more likely to be familiar with the basic principles of physics and chemistry. Faculty found that it was impossible to provide a challenging learning experience for every student when only half of the class had the prerequisite knowledge to do the work.

This difficulty was addressed in 1983 by providing "double level" courses in chemistry and physics. So while the core subject areas remained the same, there were offered two levels of instruction in several of the courses. With these additions the core courses included the following classes: Molecular Biology; Physical Chemistry; Organic Chemistry; Matter, Motion and Nature of Physical Laws; Concepts of Modern Physics; Discrete Mathematics, and; Computer Science.

Molecular biology consisted of only one level for "although all students had conventional high school biology,few if any had courses in modern molecular biology." Chemistry was split into two levels. Physical Chemistry was for the student with "little or no" previous experience in chemistry while Organic chemistry was for those who had previously taken high school chemistry. Likewise, Physics was divided into two classes. "Matter, Motion and Nature of Physical Laws" was for students who had little or no previous physics. "Concepts of Modern Physics" was for those who had completed a highs school course in physics. There was only one level of Discrete Mathematics because few students had an opportunity to take discrete mathematics in high school. Finally Computer Science was also divided into a class for those with computer programming experience and a class for those without previous experience.

In addition to increasing the classes within each core area to accommodate students of different backgrounds, the program was also modified by placing a greater emphasis on the Team Projects. The students were told the first day of the program the projects in the different areas were dependent upon certain associated courses. Thus, a team project in Biology was produced by a group of students enrolled in the Biology Laboratory related course and a team project in Computer Science was completed by a group of students taking the Computer Science Elective. The elective courses, with the exception of biochemistry and nuclear chemistry, began in the first week of school and lasted for the duration of the program.

Also, unlike the 1982 session, each student in the 1983 PGSS was assigned a faculty advisor. Faculty members were to help students who were having problems with career goals or motivational problems as well with social problems. Finally the name of the school was changed from the pilot project name of the "Pennsylvania School for the Sciences" to the Pennsylvania Governor's School for Science." With the addition of extra schools within the Governor's School System, it was decided that each additional school would bear the common name "Pennsylvania Governor's School (PGS)" in front of the specific subject that was taught. Thus the Pennsylvania Governor's School for Science became known as PGSS. The PGSS was under the auspices of the Pennsylvania Governor's Schools of Excellence, which was headed by Dr. Art Gatty, who was also director of the Governor's Schools for the Arts.

1983 saw an increase in the number of outside contributors, including the Henry C. Frick Educational Commission, the Heinz Endowment, McCandless Charitable Trust, Pennsylvania Power and Light Company, the Pittsburgh Foundation, and the Sun Oil Company. Collectively, these donors contributed approximately 23% of the 1983 budget of $138,506.

The 1984 program showed little change except for an increase in the number of students from sixty to eighty. In 1985 this number was increased to 90 students, near which it has since stayed. 1985 was a year of major changes in both the format and curriculum of the Governor's Schools for the Sciences. All students were required to take all core courses for the entire five-week period. The substitution of one or two elective courses for one or two core courses during the first two weeks of the program, permitted since 1983, was discontinued. Furthermore, the two different levels offered in Physics and Chemistry were discontinued. All students were instructed together as the benefits for providing two different levels of instruction were outweighed by the costs. In order that students may have as much time as possible to spend on their research projects, all core courses and elective courses ended on the Monday of the fifth week.

A new elective course was added to the program: the Philosophy of Science. This course included discussions about the nature of scientific inquiry. Topics for discussion included "What is Science?," "Science as Belief," "Methodology in Science," "the Scientist Himself," "Science in Society," "Science and Philosophy," and the "Synthesis of Dualistic Scientific Attitudes." This course was very popular, with approximately 65% of the students enrolling.

There was certainly much continuity in the Governor's School for Science. The core courses remained basically unchanged throughout: In 1985 they consisted of Biology, Organic Chemistry, Concepts of Modern Physics, Discrete Mathematics and Computer Science; In 1995 they consisted of Molecular Biology, Inorganic Chemistry, Concepts of Modern Physics, Discrete Mathematics, and Computer Science. Of course, the courses were updated to reflect the advancesinscience. IthasalwaysbeenatoppriorityoftheGovernor'sSchoolfortheSciences to provide students an opportunity for first-rate scientific inquiry. Additional elective courses such as 'Astrophysics' and 'Art and Science' were added along with the laboratory courses and the popular 'Philosophy of Science.'

However the main staple or hallmark, if you will, has been the student team projects. These research projects had achieved a special prominence in 1985 when the entire last week was given solely to the team projects. This prominence was never relinquished. Students took great pride in their work and were pleased to see their research printed in the Journal of the Governor's Schools for the Sciences—complete with graphs, charts, and data sets. It seemed that almost every year the journal got more elaborate. In fact by the 16th Volume, published by the class of 1997, the Journal was over 340 pages in length.

Former Director of the PGSS, Barry Luokkala, taught the physics laboratory and also coordinated the physics team projects for PGSS in 1986. Luokkala describes what the team projects add to the curriculum:

One of the most important things that we want the students to take with them when they leave the program is the awareness that science is best done in community. The entire PGSS program is built on cooperative learning. Students learn from each other, and learn to seek help when they need it. For most of the students, the team projects are their first taste of doing research cooperatively. Many of them have done independent science projects in junior high and high school, usually as a solo activity, perhaps under the supervision of a mentor, but rarely as a group activity. Professional research is most often a collaborative effort, and often interdisciplinary. So we feel that it is very important for the students to learn to work together to solve an interesting research problem.

While there was much continuity in approach for much of the 1980's, administrators were always looking for ways to improve the learning experience that the PGSS could off students. Faculty members had observed that the knowledge divide between sophomores and juniors was significant. Some high schools did not teach physics until 11th grade. Thus, some students would come into the program with a solid background in the discipline while others would have no background at all. Faculty observed that the junior members were better able to benefit more completely from the PGSS as they were more likely to have taken courses in all of the necessary disciplines.

In order to ensure that all of the students participating in the program would obtain the greatest possible benefit, it was decided in 1996 to experiment by accepting only juniors. Dr. Peter Berget, who took over the directorship after Caretto retired, observed that the PGSS class of 1996 "was extremely serious in their attention to the academic program, their motivation, and their enthusiasm... It is the opinion of the PGSS faculty that the increased average age of these students enabled them to get much more out of the program." 6 Thus, it was decided that only Juniors should be admitted to the program.

Like the School for the Arts, the "living-learning" experience of the School for the Sciences emphasized community and the close work between students and faculty. Students formed close and enduring friendships with one another and also with faculty. PGSS students also formed lasting relationships with faculty. Listen to Former Director Luokkala's account of a friendship he developed with a student during his second year as coordinator of the physics team projects in 1987.

He [the student] had his heart set on doing a particular physics team project which I offered that year, but we could not convince anyone else in the class to work on it with him. It's sort of contrary to the spirit of "team research" to allow someone to do a project alone, but I gave in. He ended up being tremendously successful in every aspect of the work on the project. We spent a good bit of time one-on-one as he learned the theory behind the experiment, conducted his research, wrote up his final paper and prepared his presentation for our scientific symposium at the end of the program.

We discovered in conversation that both of us were on our respective high school chess teams, and we managed to play a few games will he was here for the program (he beat me soundly ever time). After the program, we stayed in touch by playing chess by mail (snail-mail, that is, in the days before email was ubiquitous). We continued to write back and forth while he was in college.

I began work (part-time) on my Ph.D. in physics at Carnegie Mellon shortly before he entered graduate school in physics at Rochester. The two of us, now communicating via email, sort of saw each other through the ups and downs of thesis research. As we both got closer to completion, we made a bet as to who would finish first. The winner would get a year's subscription to the "Journal of Irreproducible Results" (paid for by the loser). He beat me by five months. Shortly after his subscription began, I got a note from him, which concluded with the words, "Thank you for setting me on the past these many years ago. Your student, your loving friend." He now has a postdoctoral position, and will be married in a few months.

As the reader can see, one of the tremendous benefits of the "living-learning" model in which a student works closely with faculty and his or her peers is the opportunity to make lasting friendships with others who have similar interests. Aristotle, in delineating the preconditions for the formation of a lasting friendship, says that whenever people with similar interests, who take pleasure in the same subjects, who each have something to offer one another, are allowed to associate and share their interests with one another, friendship is ripe.7 This friendship between those who find joy in investigating the same subjects was quite possibly experienced by Aristotle when he was a student of Plato's, an experience offered to those attending Aristotle's own famous school, the Lyceum. I would suggest that this is the type of experience afforded the students of the Governor's Schools. And its faculty. As Luokkala explains, "It's tremendous satisfaction for me as an educator to know that I've made a difference in the life of a student. But to make a lasting friendship along the way is an incomparable blessing."

Such wonderful experiences make the School for Science extremely popular and an interest to females as well as males. Early in the School's history, male students greatly outnumbered female students. For example, in 1982 the male/female ratio was 36:16. However the imbalance now appears to be fixed. In 2000 the class of 90 students was composed of 46 males and 44 females. What is more, the imbalance has been fixed, not due to institutional rectifications, but due to an increase in qualified female applicants. Luokkala comments:

I have been part of the selection committee since I started with the program [1986], and I do not recall ever being instructed to select equal numbers of males and females. I have always taken a gender-blind approach to reading applications, selecting students based entirely upon qualifications. It is encouraging to find that nearly as many qualified females are applying as males.

All PGSS students are thoroughly qualified. When students who are talented and motivated are introduced to educators and peers who are willing to challenge and be challenged, good things happen. Listen to the following statistics taken from 5-year student surveys.

100% of PGSS alumni go to college after high school and 86% major in some discipline within the sciences or engineering. A significant number of students attend colleges such as Brown, Carnegie Mellon, Cornell, Duke, Harvard, Johns Hopkins, MIT, Penn State, Princeton, University of Pennsylvania, and Yale. While good statistics on post-graduate employment does not currently exist, after graduation from college, 62% go on to either graduate school or medical school.

PGSS students are accepted into the country's top colleges and universities and often continue on to post-graduate study. Challenges such as the imbalance between males and females have been successfully met. Students are thriving at the School and the program appears to be very strong. Where does PGSS go from here? Luokkala offers his vision for the future of the school for the Sciences.

[I envision that] PGSS alumni [will] continue to be accepted into the best colleges and universities in the country. It would seem that the PGSS program is playing a significant role in preparing these students for their future, and is serving the scientific community by encouraging some of the most talented students in the state to pursue careers in the sciences. My vision for the future of PGSS is that it would continue to be the successful, high quality science program that it is. One significant change that I have made to the program is to increase the number of elective courses, which we offer to the students. My hope is to provide a breadth of experience in the sciences, through electives, while continuing to provide a depth of experience in a particular area, through the team projects.


1Indispensable in providing detailed information and analysis for the 1982 School for Science was the 1982 Final Report: Pennsylvania School for the Sciences at Carnegie-Mellon University.

2Paragraph taken from "Selection Mechanism" section of the 1982 Final Report: Pennsylvania School for the Sciences at Carnegie-Mellon University.

3See Appendix B for this information.

4These course descriptions were taken directly from the "Course Descriptions" packet given to the students at the School in 1982.

5It should be noted that the Biology examination more closely reflected the core course content than the Chemistry examination, which is one explanation for the higher scores.

6Peter Berget in the "Annual Report of the Pennsylvania Governor's School for the Sciences."--1997

7Nicomachean Ethics, 1157b-l 158a.

Appendix B - Core Courses

  1. Biological Sciences

    This core course will cover four current research areas in modern biology—gene expression, molecular assembly, genetic engineering and energy transduction. The course will include introductory lectures in the above areas, problem sets and guest lecturers who are researchers in the above areas. For students who are taking the biology laboratory, these lectures will parallel the experiments being performed in the lab.

    In the section of gene expression, we will study the molecular structure of DNA and look at some of the details on how this macromolecule is replicated, transcribed and translated into protein molecules. The section on molecule assembly will include a review of the major organelles in the cell and an investigation on how some of these organelles are assembled within a cell. In genetic engineering, we will look at current methods for manipulating DNA and discuss the problems and future for this field. In energy transduction we will look at the way a cell produces the energy it needs for the varied cellular functions.
  2. Chemistry

    The theme of this course is to answer the question as to why we lose one to two milliliters of blood everytime we take an aspirin tablet. The course will develop the necessary chemical principles, at a sufficiently high level of sophistication, to understand this phenomenon. Consideration will be given to the structure of aspirin (acetylsalicyclic acid), the nature of acids and bases, aqueous equilibrium, heterogeneous equilibrium, solubility, and the dependence of acid strength Onmolecular structure.
  3. Computer Sciences

    The core course in computer science is designed to expose the student to a selection of topics chosen from the entire breadth of the field. Each major subfield of computer science will be represented by two or three topics. The areas include programming, software, hardware, theory and artificial intelligence. Each area corresponds to a view of computation at a different level of abstraction. The approach to the subject matter will be mathematical and scientific as opposed to an engineering or applications oriented treatment. The formal presentation of the material will be supported by hands-on experience with computer programming and digital logic design.

    The first week of the course will focus on computer programming using the LISP language. Students will write, debug, and execute LISP programs. The second week will introduce software systems, including interpreters and compilers. A simplified interpreter for LISP, written in LISP, will be presented and students will write a compiler for LSIP arithmetic statements in LISP. The third week of the course will address digital hardware design. Students will design, build, and test a digital controller for a model train layout. The fourth week will be devoted to theoretical computer science, including computability theory, analysis of algorithms, and program verification. Students will design and analyze and algorithm for a discrete mathematics problem. The final week of the course will cover artificial intelligence. Topics will include problem solving, two- person games, and robotics. Students will write and experiment with a search algorithm to solve a problem.
  4. Discrete Mathematics

    While Calculus is a foundation of mathematics, science, and engineering, there is a second area, discrete mathematics, which is coming into equal partnership in this foundational role. Its subject matter is not so much new as it is newly organized and newly recognized for its importance and applicability. Of course the digital computer revolution is the cause of it all, but there are no regrets. What were once exotic occasional electives in the curriculum, Graph theory and Combinatorics, for example, are now requirements in programs. Indeed, there are those who would start Mathematics degree programs with a study of the discrete rather than the traditional Calculus.
  5. Physics

    This program will cover several of the current frontiers of physics from the smallest objects known to us to the largest, and from the coldest to the hottest. It also forms the basis for discussions of relativity and quantum mechanics, the two fundamental pillars of twentieth-century physics.
  6. Statistical Methods for Data Analysis

    In Statistical Methods for Data Analysis we shall explore a number of statistical procedures used in a wide range of sciences. Topics to be presented include reduction and summary of data, probability models, regression analysis, and use of Minitab, a sophisticated computer statistical package.