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High school students can learn Chinese and astronomy on the NSA's dime - best summer camp ever?
Dr. Donna Governor, assistant professor of teacher education; Dr. Yunjuan He, associate professor of Chinese; and Dr. Gregory Feiden, assistant professor of astronomy, are teaming up for the UNG STARTALK Chinese and Astronomy Summer Academy set for July 7-20 on UNG's Dahlonega Campus. (PEGGY COZART | University of North Georgia)

The University of North Georgia will host a unique two-week residential summer camp in July on the Dahlonega campus for high school students to learn about astronomy and Chinese languages.

According to a UNG press release, “An $80,538 STARTALK grant from the National Security Agency administered by the National Foreign Language Center at the University of Maryland is making the rare combination of instruction possible.”

The grant will allow up to 24 high school students (as of fall 2019) from Hall, Dawson, Forsyth, Lumpkin and White counties to pair Chinese language instruction with science, technology, engineering and math topics.

Dr. Yunjuan He, associate professor of Chinese at UNG, told The Times that Stanford University and the University of Washington are the only other STARTALK academies integrated with STEM-based topics.

“I’m always interested in teaching languages with (courses) in STEM,” He said.

According to its website, “STARTALK’s mission is to increase the number of U.S. citizens learning, speaking, and teaching critical need foreign languages.”

Dr. Donna Governor, assistant professor of teacher education at UNG, is developing a curriculum of classes and activities for the summer camp, which He will translate.

Topics will focus on “teaching literacy of Chinese myths about the night sky and the Chinese language to introduce basic knowledge of astronomy,” according to UNG.

The residential camp targets high school students (as of fall 2019) who have no prior knowledge of the Chinese language.

He hopes to hire up to four UNG students studying Chinese languages to work as camp counselors.

He said the program recruitment efforts will cast a wide net, including a focus on students from low-income, rural and minority households.

He said the application deadline has been extended to May 1.

According to the UNG website, “Applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis and spots will be filled quickly. We strongly recommend that you submit your application as early as possible.”

Faculty members in the College of Arts and Letters, the College of Science and Mathematics and the College of Education coordinate the program.

He said the summer program will benefit from the knowledgeable professors and exceptional facilities at UNG.  

“All these things came together,” He said. “It helped us come up with the proposal.”

University of North Georgia STARTALK summer academy

What: Chinese and astronomy residential summer learning program for high school students in Hall, Dawson, Forsyth, Lumpkin and White counties

When: July 7 – 20; application deadline is May 1; mandatory program orientation is July 6;  .

Where: UNG Dahlonega campus

More info: