Westerville high school juniors and seniors will be able to study material science engineering, zoology and biomedicine next year, following a vote to add three courses to the district's curriculum by the school board Monday night.

Westerville high school juniors and seniors will be able to study material science engineering, zoology and biomedicine next year, following a vote to add three courses to the district's curriculum by the school board Monday night.

All three courses have been run as pilots in a district high school over the last one to three years before the administration decided to pursue them as permanent programs, district chief of academic affairs Diane Conley said.

All three also fit with Ohio's core requirements that call for high school students to spend time in science labs.

The additional courses may mean fewer sections of other science courses, Conley said, but they ultimately will provide students with more science-related options and will not harm existing science programs.

"At this point, we're not dropping out any other science courses, especially in this day and age," Conley said.

A pilot course in material science engineering has been offered at Westerville South High School since 2007 by chemistry teacher Beth Eddy.

The course focuses on new developments in science rather than focusing on the traditional chemistry principles students are taught in a basic science course.

"That's what the kids are studying, and they're very excited about it," Eddy said of technologies such as airplane materials. "The things I present to the kids (in chemistry classes) are about 40 or 50 years old. They're still true; they still need to know them."

Students in the course participate in labs four to five times a week and hear from speakers in the material science field a few times a month, Eddy said.

Zoology, which has been taught by Erik Ekis at Westerville Central High School since 2008, provides students with a hands-on look at biology, a course that was, at one point, a mainstay in high schools, said teacher Pam Hayes.

"It probably is the biology course that all of us took in high school," Hayes said. "It is so important for kids who are in (premedicine or preveterinarian)."

Students in the course learn about animal life, animal behavior and conservation.

"It is a field course like no other," Hayes said. "They go on field trips every week in the fall."

The biomedical course is being piloted by Hayes at Westerville Central high School as the STEM/Bodies program.

The school has partnered with Columbus Metro High School, Ohio State and local companies involved in the biomedical field, such as Battelle and OhioHealth.

"It's worked out tremendously this year," Hayes said. "The partnership has grown. We're doing a great job."

Through the course, students attend and earn credit for Ohio State science courses while working with professionals in the field on a regular basis.

"We try to give them as much professional exposure as possible to the various people in the community," Hayes said.

Students learn how to operate in a professional atmosphere and take college courses while getting to work with people in the fields they hope to some day join, Hayes said.

"It's great because it's real life and they realize that this is what they want to do," she said.

The courses will be added with little fiscal impact to the district, Conley said, because teachers have worked out partnerships with local businesses and groups, and because the district will be eligible for some grants to help cover costs.