Westerville News & Public Opinion

Students investigate, learn science in CSI-like class

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Who killed Anna Garcia?

On the second day of class this school year, Westerville North High School students enrolled in Principles of Biomedical Sciences began their semester-long investigation to find out how the fictional character Anna Garcia died.

Though it seems like students are acting through their own version of a television crime investigation drama, it is a biomedical science class.

By investigating the faux-crime scene and recording all bits of data, students practice the scientific method, learn biomedical principles and through those means investigate what could have contributed to the character's death.

"This whole course is based around a fictional individual, who the very first day of class is found dead," said Brooke Cochran, a biology teacher at North and a co-teacher for the class.

"We want them to actually go to the crime scene and gather as much information as they can and start making predictions of what could have happened to this individual."

As the course continues, students learn several different units of biomedical principles and the necessary equipment to analyze data and facts.

For example, as students learn about heart disease and high cholesterol, they will learn how to perform and analyze an electrocardiogram assessment.

"The amount of technology and equipment we have for this class is amazing -- things that we don't typically have for a normal science class," said Julie Chance, a biology teacher at North who teaches with Cochran.

Every lesson and test result also will help students deduce how Garcia died.

"Students keep a binder," Chance said.

"They have their crime scene notes from the beginning and as they get more information, then they add to that," she said.

The class is part of the health career pathway through Innovation Generation, an initiative that helps educators prepare students with the necessary skills for today's fastest-growing careers. Students learn about biomedical sciences and learn more about the necessary career path for a job in the field.

Cochran and Chance require students to write a career journal, which helps them learn about several career pathways. Within the first three weeks of school, students have researched five different professions and reflected in their journal their desire to be in that career.

"I've been surprised by the number of kids who really find the career is something they want to pursue," Cochran said.

Next semester, students take the next class called Human Body Systems at North as part of the pathway series.

Next year, students can enroll in Medical Innovations and Biomedical Innovations classes at Westerville Central High School to continue the pathway.

The two years of classes kick-start a students' potential career in the health care fields.

The classes are intended to be project-based and provide realistic career-like experiences.

Unlike traditional science classes that have lectures, labs and homework, these classes are conducted with an all-encompassing, hands-on approach.

"The kids learn by doing and everything is done by discovery," Cochran said. "This is project based. They are learning by doing and discovering."

By the end of the semester, students will leave with knowledge of the career path, jobs related to the field and principles of biomedical sciences.

And they should have an answer to the question of how did Anna Garcia die.

"They have to determine the manner of death," Cochran said.

"Was it a homicide? Was it accidental? Was it natural cause?

"And we won't know that until right before Christmas at the end of the semester," she said.

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