Charter Oak H.S. Students Indulge In Hands-On Biomedical Science

Freshmen are studying the DNA samples collected from a mock death during the Priniciples of Biomedical Science class at Charter Oak High School. Photo by Aaron Castrejon.

Students arriving to the first day of class at Charter Oak High School witnessed a dead body inside a classroom … but it’s not as morbid as you might think.

High schoolers in Laura Roy’s Principles of Biomedical Science class are getting a rather intense experience in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields, learning about the biomedical sciences.

Students study biotechnology by using a wide array of methods and tools, such as gel electrophoresis used in DNA analysis, and are presented unique scenarios to solve in groups to gather results in a hands-on environment.

On the first day at Charter Oak High School, biomedical students of teacher Laura Roy encountered a dead body in her class as part of an assignment. Photo provided by Laura Roy.

On the first day at Charter Oak High School, biomedical students of teacher Laura Roy encountered a dead body in her class as part of an assignment. Photo provided by Laura Roy.

Incoming freshmen to Roy’s class on day one encountered the dead body, which was a female mannequin, at a crime scene. Students investigating the “death,” collected DNA samples and analyzed fingerprints and footprints from the perspective of a forensic scientist, DNA analyst, biochemist and medical examiner, among others.

Students recently performed glucose and insulin testing for the victim to determine cause of death.

“It’s project-based learning. Instead of me standing and lecturing, I’m more of a facilitator. They’re doing hands on things,” Roy said. “Even if they don’t go into the sciences, I think this is invaluable because of the critical thinking and problem solving skills they have to learn.”

These biomedical cases are done with the help of the nationally-recognized Project Lead The Way program, which provides STEM solutions for thousands of high schools across the country.

Charter Oak High School’s Biomedical science class is in its first year of implementation.

“The class is very engaging and explores a range of careers in biomedical sciences using real-world situations, hands-on and project-based learning, and problem solving,” said Charter Oak Superintendent Mike Hendricks. “In Charter Oak, we selected the biomedical and engineering pathways as they should provide students with career opportunities in fields of high demand in the future.”

Biomedical students are performing glucose testing of forensic samples collected from the mock death. Photo by Aaron Castrejon.

Biomedical students are performing insulin testing of forensic samples collected from the mock death. Photo by Aaron Castrejon.

Diego Alas, 14, was excited to enroll in the elective biomedical class because of all the hands-on lab work required.

“I like all the labs and … using the chemicals, sometimes dangerous chemicals. It’s fun,” Diego said. He would eventually like to go into ophthalmology.

Brooke Smith, 13, has a fascination with the biomedical field. Even at such a young age, Smith has her heart set on being either a crime scene investigator or veterinarian. She especially loves crime scene investigative work because of the mysteries to be solved.

“The first day we came in here, we saw a dead body. That really hooked me in, Smith said exuberantly. “It’s cool, being able to discover how someone died and to tell their family if it was a homicide or an accident,” Brooke said.

Eventually, students will complete a Capstone course, which is a culminating class combining all aspects learned in a specific major to demonstrate knowledge.

“This is the type of class that will really prepare them for college. They’ll have a huge leg up if they enter the biomedical fields,” Roy said.

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