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Year 12 students get a taste of UCL life

6 August 2012

Friday July 25th saw the culmination of UCL Horizons’ Summer Challenge, a six-week after-school programme for Year 12 students hoping to gain a deeper understanding of a particular subject area and get a taste of university life in the process.

University Street sign

The Summer Challenge, which is open to 16- and 17-year-old pupils from London-based, non-selective state schools, offers six science and humanities courses, each conceptualised and taught by a UCL postgraduate student. Designed to resemble university modules, this year’s topics were: Medicine and Society, The Amazing Brain, Human Nature, The Middle East, Britain and the World, and Shakespeare Updated.

The successful applicants attended UCL for two hours per week and, in the process of learning about their chosen areas, also began to understand what studying in a university environment can be like. At the end of the six weeks they were assessed via a 1,500-word mini-essay and five-minute presentation, with a celebration ceremony held on July 25th to recognise the pupils’ achievements.

UCL’s Alison Home, who designed the Summer Challenge programme, said: “The point is for the pupils to really engage with a subject, making inter-disciplinary links between different areas and improving their academic writing and critical thinking. Ultimately, we hope that it will give them really interesting material to discuss in their personal statements and make their UCAS applications that bit stronger when they apply to UCL.”

Check out what the UCL student teachers and the school students thought of the Summer Challenge below.

Isabel Marks

Isabel Marks, teaching ‘Shakespeare Updated’, studying for an MA in Shakespeare

“I chose to teach Shakespeare in relation to modern society, focusing on themes such as misogyny, nationalism and culturalism. I tried to pick some of Shakespeare's more obscure plays and we covered one each week.

As well as gaining subject knowledge, the Summer Challenge gave the group the opportunity to ask me about my path into English (I am currently doing a press and marketing internship at The Globe alongside my studies). The Summer Challenge appealed to me as I already tutor English but wanted the chance to do some formal teaching and have support at the same time. The biggest thing I’ve learned over the last six weeks is that I can fill two hours more easily than I thought! It sounds like a long period but if you plan well and can think on your feet it flies by.”

Amy-Jane Cole

Amy-Jane Cole, student on the 'Shakespeare Updated' course

“I did Summer Challenge because I am going to apply to study English Literature at UCL and I love Shakespeare so the course was perfect for me. My mentor is really lovely and the small-group environment we were in worked well because of the dynamics; everyone got on really well and I didn’t feel nervous about speaking up. I feel less anxious about going to university now – obviously the learning’s still very intense but the environment seems more relaxed than I had imagined.”

Meghan Morley

Meghan Morley, teaching ‘The Amazing Brain’, studying for an MSc in Clinical Neuroscience

“My course aimed to give a comprehensive survey overview of the lobes of the brain. There were five weeks of teaching so I thought that covering the four lobes of the brain and the cerebellum would be a good way of splitting things up in a manageable but logical way. I tried to provide interactive activities and examples that students could relate to their own experience – for instance, the occipital lobe is associated with vision so I used optical illusions as a framework for a larger concept because it’s something that everyone can experience.

I was a high school teacher last year in the States so teaching isn’t new to me but the Summer Challenge organisers provided training on lesson delivery and feedback which was really helpful. At Master’s level things get really complicated and having to get back to basics and teach people who were new to the topic was wonderful. With a course of this nature you’re always going to get into somewhat higher-level learning than you’d get at school (for example we did critical appraisal of journal articles) and I think it helped the students understand the type of work they’ll be doing at university.”

John Smallridge

John Smallridge, student on 'The Amazing Brain' course

“I’ve been interested in neuroscience for a number of years so when the opportunity came up to study it at UCL I was very interested. I enjoyed the social environment and the fact that everyone here was curious about the subject, as you don’t find many people that are interested in neuroscience at school! I got to understand the university environment a bit more, what it’s like to be sitting in a room discussing a topic, and I am hoping to apply to UCL next year.”

Page last modified on 06 aug 12 16:32


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