Falling in Love with Science

Santina Cherian is a senior at Deer Creek High School and third-year student at the Biosciences and Medicine Academy at Francis Tuttle Technology Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Santina is a National HOSA Future Health Professionals Officer and a national first-place CPR/First Aid winner.

Three years ago, an opportunity that seemed too good to pass up was presented to me in the form of the Biosciences and Medicine Academy at Francis Tuttle Technology Center, a three-year rigorous math and science college preparatory program with an emphasis on health career applications. It was in the Academy that I was introduced to Project Lead The Way classes.

My freshman and sophomore years of high school, I could not say that my favorite subject was science. I could imagine myself serving as a health professional one day and felt comfortable in a hospital environment, yet I did not feel confident in my science classes. I made the choice to attend the Academy for the experience of smaller class sizes and one-on-one instruction with my teachers, in hopes that I would understand and enjoy science at a greater level. A shift took place in my life as I had the opportunity to practice scientific principles and explore them as practically as I was able to through my PLTW classes. My PLTW classes nurtured me to think beyond the normal scope and challenged me to think critically. I have been able to explore scientific concepts such as ELISA testing, PCR (polymerase chain reaction), restriction enzymes, and gel electrophoresis in hands-on applications. The exposure to these concepts has left me with an advantage over other students as I pursue higher education.

The creative ways PLTW approaches complex topics – using a swim cap to diagram the human brain, using clay and a manikin to understand the systems of the body, and interacting with a water and eye model to understand the human eye – have helped me to understand human physiology in a more comprehensive and interactive manner. PLTW teaches scientific concepts in a way that encourages students to consider the real-life implications, beyond the biological and chemical standpoint.

PLTW fosters innovation and encourages students to create their own experiments and perform their own research so that students can learn to take ownership of their own education. The thought of designing an experiment on my own terrified me because I never considered myself a creative person. Yet, in my Biomedical Innovation (BI) class, I was able to create an experiment to discover if there is a relationship between exercise and reaction time to a stimulus. The experiment was relatively simple, but beyond the scientific principles, I learned an even more valuable lesson from the experience: that I could, in fact, carry out an experiment of my design. The experience served as an encouragement for me as I approached my next extensive project in BI: I proposed an innovative treatment called JustIN to address mental illnesses in a personalized and impactful manner.

Being guided through the steps of inquiry in understanding biomedical sciences through the use of various mediums, especially dissections and labs, has left me with a precedent of how to methodically approach science. I leave more hopeful that I might make a contribution to good health in the future.

The PLTW program encourages students to recognize and care about the social and cultural ties of science, and through my classes I have been able to explore challenging medical ethics, such as whether deafness should be considered as a disability, the merit and implications of using biometrics, and “designer babies.” Engaging in class discussions, researching such issues, and educating myself on these topics have helped me realize the important questions I will face as a future health professional.

In addition to the explorations of biomedical science, one of the most important aspects of PLTW is the instruction in professional skills like writing, speaking, presentation, and research. PLTW has taught me skills that extend far beyond science application, but also to history, English, and math. I want to be informed about how to know the difference between a mainstream media article and a scientific journal piece, and to properly read statistics to check their validity. The impact of the PLTW curriculum in laying a foundation for students to understand science and equipping them with skills for college – and far more – is evident in my life.

Today, my life has been impacted in so many positive ways, and I have grown as an individual and student. More importantly, I am a better thinker and problem-solver as a result of the dedicated, talented instructors who direct well-structured classes. The experience of the past three years has not only brought me face to face with the challenging and sometimes unpleasant aspects of science, but also an understanding that science truly is a Wonder.

PLTW has taken the difficult challenges of studying science for students and found a way to teach students the practical applications of science to everyday life. The PLTW curriculum does so in a most engaging manner. Any student who studies science in this way cannot help but enjoy it, be challenged by it, and most importantly, learn.

PLTW’s blog is intended to serve as a forum for ideas and perspectives from across our network. The opinions expressed are those of this guest author.