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Opening Doors

The Rice School/La Escuela Rice Offers Students Unique Education

Source: Rice News, August 25, 1994

On Aug. 22, The Rice School/La Escuela Rice welcomed 1,275 students from the Houston Independent School District (HISD) to a facility that offers new educational programs.

The school for students in kindergarten through eighth grade mixes languages, technology, accelerated educational programs and collaborative learning.

Rice has played an important role in developing the school's academic program. Faculty and staff from the university worked with the K-8 school's teachers to ensure that children get a solid education in the conventional disciplines as well as additional opportunities for enrichment.

Students in kindergarten, first and second grades will be taught in English and Spanish. As these children move through the school during the next seven years, the entire educational program will become bilingual.

Through Project Owlink, a distance education project co-sponsored by Southwestern Bell, Rice and HISD, videoconferencing technology and computers will link teachers and students in The Rice School to two other HISD campuses and to two schools in the Rio Grande Valley.

During the next three years, Compaq Computer Corp. is donating more than 1,100 computers for use in the school. The first deployment will provide a workstation for each middle school student as well as computers for classrooms in the other grades.

Computing in the school will be integrated with the university network to give students and teachers access to campus resources and to Internet.

Rice faculty and staff have been involved in program development for the school. Leslie Miller, faculty fellow, coordinated the university's involvement with the school since October. Kevin Long, acting director of the Office of Computing Services, supervised the development of computing and telecommunications at the school.

Gwyn Guidy and Tom Lytle from Information Technology Department provided technical support for the school's computing and networking. Carolyn White with Computing Services, managed computer training for new teachers at The Rice School.

Plans call for Rice faculty and staff to continue to support administrators and teachers throughout the school year.

The Center for Research on Parallel Computation sponsored summer internships to give two of the school's technology teachers a close look at the world of high-speed computing.

"The Rice K-8 school has provided a wonderful opportunity for the CRPC to serve as a resource for knowledge and support for their teachers," said Ken Kennedy, Noah Harding Professor of Computer Science and director of the CRPC. "We'll continue to raise teacher awareness of computational science and engineering and help the school to make computing an exciting medium through which to learn."

The space physics and astronomy department helped in the high-tech act at the K-8 school. Barry Dunning, professor of space physics and astronomy, recently gave a lecture about lasers to grade-schoolers at the new school. He plans to continue his involvement with the school by bringing his expertise directly to the classrooms.

"I was a tinkerer when I was a kid," said Dunning, who enjoys teaching young children. "My teachers were very good. They inspired me, kept my interest. If children can see the importance of science from things in the world around them, then they'll focus in on science. They won't think it's boring and useless, and they won't mind if it's intellectually challenging. I'd like to think I can get kids as enthusiastic about science as I was as a kid."

The school's Information Arcade or library will function as a resource center for students and as a professional resource center for the school's teachers.

The professional resource center will be a branch of Fondren Library. The school's faculty will have access to the university's library, and through an electronic link to Fondren's on-line catalog.

"We're setting it up so it will be a self-service resource for the school's teachers," said Beth Shapiro, university librarian. "Knowing the university's strong commitment to this project encouraged us to develop a unique approach to providing information support for faculty of the school."

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