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The Middle College at UNCG: A Shining Model of Dual Enrollment

The research is clear: dual enrollment works.

 

The concept, which allows students to pursue college-level courses before graduating from high school, has a positive impact on high school academics, high school graduation rates, college enrollment, college success, and college completion rates. (Check out this article and links to a New York City study.)

 

And you might not find a better example of dual enrollment in action than the University of North Carolina-Greensboro and it’s Middle College.

 

Doors opened in 2011. Each year, 50 students who are primarily interested in health and life sciences are selected to participate in the Middle College opportunity. Only 250 students attend the school, which sits on the college campus. Students start taking college-level courses as early as their freshman year. They are given both college ID’s and high school ID’s. The school boasts a 100 percent graduation rate.

 

Many graduates, says Deanna Wynn, a Biology and Earth/Environmental Science teacher at UNCG, graduate with as many as 60 hours of college credit.


These are “hard working students, bright students, determined students,” said Wynn on a recent episode of the Anatomy in Clay® Learning System podcast.

 

“It's been really nice to be offered the opportunity to be able to go to such a school where you can build your credit like that,” said sophomore Lili Gonzalez, who joined Wynn and fellow student Jacqueline Murillo on the podcast.

 

Gonzalez is pondering a career in anesthesiology. Murillo wants to be a neurosurgeon.

 

No matter what they end up doing with their professional life, Wynn says her goal is to give students a “good scientific foundation … a good understanding and respect for the scientific field.”

 

And one of the tools Wynn started using this spring semester is the Anatomy in Clay® Learning System. At first, Wynn wondered whether students would want to work with clay. But then Wynn signed up for a professional development offered by Anatomy in Clay. (She took one of the online, virtual classes).

 

Wynn said the professional development was very well organized, with all the right materials shipped directly to her. “The instructions were very clear,” she said, and “the presenters walked me through every step.”

 

Next, she presented the learning system to the students.

 

“I don't have any major classroom disruptions, but while they were working, they were very, very focused, very engaged,” said Wynn. “I was very impressed that they took to it so well, given that they are so used to being on their laptops so this was a good break mentally and creatively for them.”

 

Wynn said she started students with building the nervous system. She also used a free Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness PDF put together by Anatomy in Clay (one of many such resources). “Students were able to have that ‘a-ha’ moment that we live for as teachers,” said Wynn.

 

Next, they worked on the shoulder and upper arm, labeling various components with pins. The built the heart, too. “The beauty of Anatomy in Clay is that it is a continual work in progress and so as we're building the systems, we are slowly putting pieces together,” said Wynn. “It was nice to see the laptops put away for a while. And the cell phones only came out when they were taking pictures, you know, to post on their own social media pages.”

 

Gonzalez added that it’s “really refreshing” to not be staring at a computer screen. “I was actually glad that we weren't on our laptops because I don't know, (we are) just always constantly doing digital work. It does get tiring, just as anything would when you're constantly doing it.”

 

No matter where Lili Gonzalez and Jacqueline Murillo end up in college or in the workforce, they both said the Middle College is giving them a tremendous boost. Neither of Lili’s parents finished college. Jacqueline’s mother finished high school, but her father did not. Jacqueline said her “biggest motivation” is to finish college and be able to help her own family with medical problems. And Lili said her father came to the United States not knowing English and really encouraged her to take advantage of the leg up that the Middle School offered. 

 

“It’s just that clarity,” said Gonzalez, “knowing that we're doing something that, you know, our parents never got to do—whether that's based on like, you know, their education level or whether it was just, you know, not right in the cards for them.”

 

Now in her 21st year of teaching altogether, Wynn said working with the students at the UNCG-Middle School “continues to nurture my heart.”

 

Given the articulate, heartfelt stories told by Wynn and her two shining students, we are sure of that!

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