Thomasville High School students are exploring concepts, investigating data, and designing experiments through Project Lead the Way (PLTW) Biomedical Science courses under the highly-qualified guidance of four teachers trained through PLTW. According to pltw.org, the introductory Principles of Biomedical Science course uses biology and medicine to determine factors that led to the death of a fictional person. Investigation includes the examination of autopsy reports, medical history, and medical treatments that might have prolonged the person’s life. Activities and projects introduce students to human physiology, basic biology, medicine, and research processes while allowing them to design their own experiments to solve problems.
Mallory Ross and Barbara Peralta, who offer the course on the Thomasville High School main campus, explain that the course has changed their approach to teaching. “Allowing them to be more hands-on has increased student engagement tremendously. They're in control of their learning, and I'm simply the facilitator,” said Ross. Peralta said that she and Ross collaborate and that two teachers with different strengths help the students along. “I have also enjoyed seeing the students get excited about the different labs,” added Peralta.
“All of the hands-on activities are relevant to what the kids are learning and adds a factor of realness to the class because they're using a lot of the techniques and equipment that professionals in the medical field use daily,” said Ross.
Jamie Gammel, who teaches Principles of Biomedical Science at Scholars Academy, describes the class as inquiry-based and lab-focused with students figuring things out with less teacher lecturing. “It’s not just a forensics class; the first unit is a crime scene analysis of a fictional character, Anna Garcia. The remainder of the course is an investigation of her health problems that lead the students to discover the cause of death at the end of the course,” said Gammel.
Freshman Caroline Hiers is looking forward to learning about different diseases like diabetes and sickle cell anemia.
Junior Abbie Jackson is already making predictions about the cause of death. “I don’t think anyone killed her. I think it was a pre-existing medical condition that caused her to die,” said Jackson.
Sophomore Zaria Meeks said, “I am actually getting the opportunity to do the activities that I learn about, instead of my teacher lecturing about it. I also get to find the results instead my teacher telling them to me.” Sophomore Spear Celaya’s favorite labs so far were analyzing blood splatters by dropping them from various heights and using chemical solutions to figure out blood types.
DNA extraction from strawberries and examining DNA patterns were some other activities mentioned by other students.
“My favorite activity involved a simulation about what drugs might have been present at a crime scene,” said sophomore Jacob Bradshaw. Freshman Abby Jones said that the class aligns with considered career paths that she seeks out. “Prior experience for college is an advantage that students normally don’t receive in traditional science classes,” said Jones.
In the second course of the pathway, Human Body Systems, students explore identity, power, movement, protection, and homeostasis in the body. Exploring science in action, students build organs and tissues on a skeletal Maniken®; use data acquisition software to monitor body functions such as muscle movement, reflex and voluntary action, and respiration; and take on the roles of biomedical professionals to solve real-world medical cases.
Having students examine the interactions of body systems is how Christie Ariail is embedding the content of Human Body Systems in her Scholars Academy Human Anatomy and Physiology class. Ariail’s enthusiasm about the program and the training she received over the summer is evident when she discusses her class. “They are learning lab skills, so when they do labs in college, they already have the necessary skills for those labs. We learn how to do correct measurements with calipers, run gels, and do all sorts of cool things that we normally don’t have time to do in high school classes,” said Ariail. Ariail also sees the connection to future careers. “They can learn a little about different careers or just medicine in general and decide if it’s a field they’re interested in; some may say, ‘I really like forensic anthropology. I want to do that.’”
Senior Alexa Hernandez is keenly aware of the specific professional skills that the PLTW course helping her to acquire.
“The Maniken helps us see and identify all the different muscles and bones in the body which is necessary to know in the medical field,” said Hernandez.
John West reports that his competitiveness for academics and his future career plans definite motivate him.“The fact that the class has so many fun activities also pushes me to do my best,” said West. “I want to be an attorney, so this program has given me a jump start with the hands-on approach I will need to be successful in that field.”
Hernandez and West both cited a bone detectives project called “Sherlock Bones” as their favorite.
A couple, running in the park, stumbled upon some bones; they call the police and it’s the students’ job as the forensic anthropologists to determine to whom the bones belong. Students determined race, age, and gender from the discovered bones. They measured the bones and figured out which ones were the best for determination in each of the categories. A third course in the PLTW Biomedical Science pathway, called Medical Interventions, is slated to be offered in the 2018-19 school year.