If you had four hours every day to study something, what would that something be?
This is one of the many questions David Morgan, the director of a new specialized academy at called Innovation Lab @Ross, will be asking students when classes begin this fall.
Innovation Lab @Ross, according to the description provided by the school, is an advanced academic program designed for high school students who are passionate about entrepreneurship in science, mathematics, engineering, media and technology.
"Ross School is once again taking a leadership role in progressive education," said Gregg Maloberti, the Interim Head of Ross School. "Innovation Lab @Ross creates an opportunity for students to not only pursue their passions but to also bring their ideas to fruition. The experiences InnovationLab @Ross students gain in high school will inform and expand their college and career choices."
As Morgan explained, "The program is going to have a lot of moving parts, but the hope is that it is going to be very individualized and it is going to be very much based on students' interests and students' passions."
For example, he said, "There may be a student who is interested in wetlands' ecology, there may be a student who is interested in robotics, there may be a student who is interested in medicine, so we really want to make the projects an outgrowth of the students interests and have the content and the skills that we need to build around the students ability to pursue those problems and projects be the content that they all share."
Morgan, who received his PhD in theoretical physics from the College of William and Mary, taught science at Ross School from 1998 until 2002 and developed the school's capstone science course, "Cosmos, Life, Brain and Mind." For the next 10 years, he taught physics and astronomy at Eugene Lang College, the undergraduate division of The New School in New York City. Starting this July, he will be returning to the East End full-time to head the new academy.
The program is based on the academy model of specialized programs that was pioneered with Ross School Tennis Academy in 2010. Students will spend the first half of their day engaged in Ross School core curriculum, studying the cultural history, language arts, science and math appropriate to their grade level.
"But in the later part of the day," Morgan said, "there will be large blocks of time to do independent projects, to do individualized research, to have a lab experience where students are in a lab or in a workshop, or building things or making things."
"Ultimately," he said, "the goal is to prepare students for college and careers in scientific, technical, engineering fields so that one of the things we want to do as quickly as possible is to give them all the experience of doing individualized research. We are pursuing outside mentors and professional researchers in the area and outside the area."
The new academy will expand on Ross relationships with institutions dedicated to scientific research and enviromental sustainability, including Harvard University, University of Southern California, New York University, and MIT.
According to Morgan, professionals "will work with students as advisors and mentors and, as often as possible, one on one with students in their labs so that students are coming into their undergraduate studies with the experience of already having had a project to work on that is not a cookbook lab like many science projects are, but a project that no one knows the right answer to."
Students, Morgan said, will be doing "authentic scienctific research."