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Seminars for Spring 2010



CSI and the Chemistry Classroom
Simon Bott, Ph.D., Associate Professor and Director of Undergraduates
Department of Chemistry
University of Houston

The recent surge of interest in forensic science due to the CSI TV series (and the various spin-offs and imitations) provides fresh and different ways to introduce a range of topics into the chemistry curriculum.  In this seminar, we shall first examine the available textbooks, journal articles, and even TV shows and movies to compare different approaches, applications, and case studies.  Each Fellow will then develop a curriculum unit and lesson plans designed to teach a broad conceptual area using forensic investigative techniques and theories from a variety of scientific disciplines.  The materials emerging from this seminar will enhance the higher order thinking and analytical skills of students.

This seminar will be of particular interest to science and math teachers.


A Look at Modern China, 1600-2010
Xiaoping Cong, Ph.D., Professor
Department of History
University of Houston

This seminar explores the history of China from 1600 CE to the present, the centuries in which China experienced its most dramatic political, social, cultural, and economic changes.  We will be examining a number of important issues:

(1) Social and political crises in the period of Manchu rule. Fellows will compare China's early modern era with that of Europe or the United States so that they will begin to understand the nature of China's modernity.  (2) Cultural changes in an age when China faced the challenge of the West. Fellows will understand the conflict, clash and interaction of Chinese culture and Western culture in the last two centuries.  (3)  Major social changes in China during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Fellows will have a better understanding of the plights of the political reforms, the Republican revolution, and Communist revolutions, as well as the consequences of wars and other social movements during this period.  (4) Changes in the family and the position of women in in the last hundred years.  (5)  Contemporary China and its opportunities and challenges for future development.


How Many Kinds of English Are There?
Standard Written English and Its Siblings, Spoken and Written

Michael R. Dressman, Ph.D., Professor Department of English
University of Houston-Downtown

A major responsibility for language arts teachers, as well as teachers in other fields, is helping students become successful users of Standard English.  This seminar is an examination of the grammar(s) of English and a look at what it means for language to have rules.  Every human language has some rules that are extremely important; if these rules are violated, there may be no communication.  However, there are other "rules" that are matters of fashion or style.  Violation of these rules actually may show conformity to a different set of rules, as the speaker communicates meaning and possibly projects multiple additional signals.

We will explore presuppositions about school English and other forms of the language and focus on registers of language-appropriateness of usage and style in various circumstances.  We will identify the characteristics of Standard Written (American) English, one variety that is very important in a school context, but we will also look at how other varieties of English work and how language changes in various settings, including literary examples.  Teachers from all levels are welcome.


American Presidents on the World Stage
Nancy Beck Young, Ph.D., Professor Department of History
University of Houston

2010 will be a pivotal year for determining the development and changing relationships between the United States and other countries.  This seminar will study the role, challenges, and effectiveness of previous presidents in determining short- and long-term foreign policy.  This seminar will evaluate contributions of past presidents within the context of problems faced by the United States, and the extent to which individual presidents can influence geopolitics. Fellows will be able to focus on the presidents of their choosing. 


Life Stories in the Classroom
Ted Estess, Ph.D.,
Dean Emeritus of the Honors College and Professor of English 
University of Houston 

Of course, all teachers teach a subject matter.  We expect--and assist--our students to learn.  At the same time, our ability to teach--and the capacity of our students to learn--the what of our discipline is inextricably connected to who we and our students are.

The idea guiding this seminar is that both teaching and learning benefit if we pay some attention to life stories and storytelling.  And why?  For one thing, stories are a means by which we connect with students.  Longstanding teachers are often confounded to hear a former student say, "I don't remember anything you taught us, but I do remember a story you told us about yourself."  Students also bring their stories to the classroom.  A teacher's capacity to engage them is inexorably linked to the teacher's ability to hear and validate those stories.

This seminar, then, will focus on life stories in the classroom.  To do so, we shall do the following:  1) the leader will present some guiding principles regarding life stories and read a few of his own; 2) each Fellow will write a life story and present it to the seminar; 3) we shall study four published life stories, two selected by the leader-Night by Elie Wiesel and Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass by Frederick Douglass-and two selected by the Fellows; 4) each Fellow will present stories from students currently in his or her classroom.


Combating Childhood Obesity: 
An Interdisciplinary Approach to an Epidemic

Norma Olvera, Ph.D., Associate Professor
Department of Health and Human Performance
University of Houston

Childhood obesity has become a major health problem in the United States, affecting all children, particularly minority children.  This seminar is designed to examine the prevalence of obesity, its diverse causes, from physiological to environmental factors, its impact on the well-being of the child (e.g., sleep apnea, self-esteem, and body image) and the development of healthy lifestyle programs involving nutrition, exercise, and self-esteem.  The discussion of healthy lifestyle programs will be presented within the context of families, schools, and communities. We will discuss the relationship between academic performance and health outcomes as well as innovative methods to assess health and fitness.  This seminar should be of interest to teachers who might develop health, science, physical education, and nutrition curricula that promote healthy living in school children. 



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Houston Teachers Institute
The Honors College
University of Houston
212 M.D. Anderson Library
Houston, Texas  77204-2001