Tips for Connecting PLTW Biomedical Science to the Community

Lori Richardson is a PLTW Biomedical Science and life science teacher at Pike Central High School in Petersburg, Indiana. Lori's PLTW Biomedical Science class won the 2016 Thinking Outside the X-Box Award from the Pike County Economic Development Corporation.

Creating real-world experiences and connecting students to the community can be a challenge, but I have found a way to do both in my Biomedical Innovation (BI) class.  

I knew from the beginning that my 2015-16 BI class was something special. I have known many of them since they were sophomores in Human Body Systems (HBS) and some since they were freshmen in biology. They have always been an exceptionally caring and forward-thinking group of students, so when I proposed to them the opportunity to connect their projects to our community, they were excited.

Of the projects we did, there were two that made the biggest impact. 

First, we expanded the water-testing project out into the community and to the staff at Pike Central High School. We soon became very inundated with samples, but the students were up for the challenge. Even though the results of the majority of the samples were good, students did find elevated levels of E. coli and other factors in some of the samples. Most of those poor results were fixed by using commercial filters.

One of the more extreme cases, however, was the sample obtained from our high school art teacher. The students tested his water three times, and each time the students found elevated levels of E. coli. They were very eager to discuss their results with the art teacher. A day later, he returned to school to tell the students he had discovered his well was near an old septic tank, and he was going to have further testing done. 

For our second big-impact project, we tackled the question "Why build an Emergency Department when you can build the whole hospital?" Pike County does not have a hospital of its own, so the students in my BI class decided to design plans for one. We started by having mock Board Meetings, with students being the CEO, Vice President of Strategic Planning, and so forth. After the initial details were hammered out, each student chose an area of the hospital that they were interested in learning more about. They spent many weeks learning more about their individual department, designing the layout of the hospital and their departments, and deciding what equipment and supplies they would need. Students even created blueprints of their specific department. Unfortunately, we ran out of time and could not expand more into staffing. However, that is in the works for this year!

When the project was finally completed, I invited our local hospital administrators, school administrators, school board, and distinguished members of the community to the auditorium of our school. The students presented the plan in a very professional presentation and then had a meet and greet with everyone afterward.  

Creating experiences like these can be so valuable. Students will take more pride in their work, and it helps them to start building relationships with community leaders. I look forward to doing more of these types of projects in the future.

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