AGS Curriculum Highlights 2019

The General Curriculum for Arkansas Governor’s School (AGS) was established under Arkansas Code Annotated 6-42-106 (Repl. 1999) and Arkansas Code Annotated 6-11-105 (Repl. 1999).  This legislation empowered the Arkansas Department of Education to establish the Rules Governing Arkansas Governor’s School.  Under ADE rules, AGS curriculum will (1) focus on contemporary and futuristic topics and issues and (2) provoke curiosity and inquiry from AGS students.  Also under the rules, the curriculum will be divided into three areas of study: Area I (Special Talent), Area II (Conceptual Development), and Area III (Personal and Social Development).

Arkansas Tech’s successful grant to host AGS for three years, from 2019 to 2021, strictly adheres to the ADE rules governing AGS while also introducing a central thematic thread: technology.  The technology theme serves three main purposes.  First, it takes advantage of ATU’s primary areas of expertise.  The institution has schools of Engineering and Applied Sciences and Natural Sciences, and its Arts and Humanities school is dedicated to advancing traditional liberal arts using contemporary technology.  Second, the incorporation of the central theme promotes integrated learning and discussion across Area I, II and III.   Technological questions affect all areas of special talent, conceptual and personal and social development.  Third, the technology theme offers a critically relevant topic of reflection for contemporary students.  Rising seniors in high school today are essentially cyborgs.  Their smart phones give them almost immediate access to the world’s information and disinformation.  It also allows them to connect to each other and people all over the world in real time at the push of a few buttons. The theme is less a vehicle to teach technical skills, though some of that will occur, than a prism through which AGS students can collaboratively examine what it means to be human.  Technology - smart phones, personal computers, artificial intelligence, genetic modification, biomedical augmentation, etc. - increasingly frames our student’s daily communication, art, economics, politics, psychology, and ethics.  As Henry Adams did at the turn of the twentieth century, we will ask AGS students to grapple with their humanity amidst the technological whirligig of the turn of the early twenty-first century

Incorporating the best traditions of AGS and adding some new curricular emphases, the 2019 AGS program has 6 basic objectives:

                Encourage Personal Growth and Self-Awareness

                Promote Critical Thinking and Problem Solving Skills

                Facilitate Integrated Learning

                Develop Ethical Perspectives

                Foster Civil and Logical Communication

                Nurture Civic Engagement and Efficacy 

To achieve these goals, AGS will offer an exciting and challenging variety of integrated curricular and extracurricular activities:


Area I

Area I includes nine areas of special talent for which students apply and are chosen to attend AGS: Visual Art, Choral Music, Drama, Instrumental Music, English/Language Arts, Mathematics, Natural Science, Social Science, and a Specialty Area (for 2019, Cybersecurity).  In Visual Art, students will create characters and landscapes that they can bring to life using 3D modeling, 3D printing, stop motion film making, and digital animation.  In Drama, students will write and perform for traditional genres, including puppeteering, and they will also explore what it is to write and perform for public consumption on smart phones and tablet computers.  In Instrumental Music, students will take the stage individually and in ensembles, learn theory and improvisation, and work with notation and recording software to create and edit their own music.  In English/Language Arts, students will study Dante and Swift, create their own poems and stories, and storyboard their creations for movies, amusement parks, and video games.  In Math, students will learn cryptography, study fractals, explore Bernoulis equation and Keplers laws, and build and fly rockets.  In Natural Science, students will study relativity and quantum mechanics, explore the nature of DNA sequencing and CRISPR, and contemplate the future global impact of plate tectonics, earthquakes, and volcanoes.  In the Social Sciences, students will create and model their own societies, use Geographic Information Systems to explore digital representations of human environments, and study the latest innovations in museum preservation and exhibition methods.  Finally in Cybersecurity, students will examine the ethics of cyber-hygiene and experiment with digital forensics.


Area II

Area II curriculum focuses on conceptual development, epistemology and critical thinking.  All Area II classes will include five revered AGS lesson/discussions that have long made up the core of Area II: What is Critical Thinking, The Reality Checklist, The Allegory of the Cave, Fourteen Logical Fallacies, and The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas.  Area II faculty may also choose to continue traditional AGS lessons such as Lifeboat Ethics, Idealism vs. Materialism, Kant’s Reflections on the Enlightenment, etc.  Additionally, each faculty member will bring her or his own expertise to the classroom.  One will introduce a “Good Cards” activity that involves gamifying kindness.  Another will explore digital echo chambers.  And another will have students converse with AI chatbots and reflect on their experiences. 


Area III

Area III concentrates on personal and social development.  Area III faculty will use project-based learning to explore how technology impacts personal and community development.  Area III classes will also confront the advantages and disadvantages of social media, including its role promoting cultural and political revolution and in perpetuating social and economic inequality.  As in Area II, Area III faculty will share their individual expertise with students.  One Area III faculty member will teach about Hacktivist art.  Another will focus on the effects of climate change.  Others will guide discussions about propaganda in social media, human commodification through algorithms, and the depression crises of the connected generation.  For a final project, all students in Area III will be encouraged to develop initiatives that they can bring home to make positive changes in their own communities.  


Speakers and other activities will add significantly to the 2019 AGS curriculum.  We will have five impact speakers: Anna Wexler, Luke Dormehl, Jennifer Earl, Steve Fryer, and Asa Hutchinson.  Anna Wexler will talk about “brain-hacking,” while Luke Dormehl will discuss the future of intelligent machines.  Jennifer Earl will talk about internet based social movements while Steve Fryer will discuss “finding your people” in college and career.  Governor Asa Hutchinson will talk to students about making a difference in Arkansas.  We will also have five impact movies that will be discussed in Area II and Area III classes: Koyannisqatsi, Dead Poets Society, Blade Runner, The Creepy Line, and Life is Beautiful.  We have carried on the AGS tradition of 4:10/6:10 lectures and workshops as well.  There will be dozens to choose from, including topics such as mathematical Illiteracy, Holocaust survivors, financial planning, Jordan Peele’s movies, Game of Thrones analysis, personal experiences of the Egyptian Revolution, paper marbling, and jazz improvisation.  All AGS students will visit the Clinton Library and Crystal Bridges, and attend a presentation of Romeo and Juliet put on by the Arkansas Shakespeare Theater as well.  And they will have the opportunity to visit Dardanelle, Arkansas and learn about recent floods and flood recovery in that community.  Some may even choose to help out with recovery work.  Students will finally participate in small group activities that will encourage team building, leadership, and networking.

ATU is honored to host Arkansas Governor’s School in 2019, and we hope this glimpse into our curriculum gives you an idea of the exciting things going on this summer at AGS.