Whittell High School experiments with biomedical program | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Whittell High School experiments with biomedical program

Jack Barnwell
George Whittell High School freshman Alize Hernandez drops a chemical solution into a tube as part of a DNA cell experiment in her biomedical class on Thursday, Oct. 8. Whittell High School launched a pilot biomedical class this year to explore it as a career technical education option for students.
Jack Barnwell / Tahoe Daily Tribune |

ZEPHYR COVE — Seven Whittell High School freshmen gathered around lab equipment to study DNA during a Thursday, Oct. 8, biomedical class.

The students’ first order of business was to swish Gatorade in their mouths. Then they collected cell samples using a cheek swab.

The exercise is part of Whittell High’s biomedical pilot program, which adds a second Career and Technical education option for students. Douglas High School in Minden, Nev., and South Tahoe High School both offer students career-focused courses as well, while Whittell already has a culinary program.

“The program would give students career and technical education options if they aren’t necessarily sure what they want to do,” said Madeline Cronk, a Whittell biology teacher. “The program gives them an insight into the field; and if they do want to go into health field, they can potentially get community college credit down the road.”

Careers stemming from a biomedical high school program could include firefighter, medical assistant, or technician. Students learn about the human body, including digestion and the skeletal system, DNA, and cells. Lessons include hands-on experiments and lecture elements.

Cronk’s class currently counts as an elective that students can take to fulfill a science requirement.

“We need to build up the program to have a [Career and Technical Education] completer course, but our goal is to do that eventually,” Cronk said.

She said that because the class is small, there’s some flexibility to follow students’ interests.

“All of the students have responded well to the program because they like science,” Cronk said. “Some of them are interested in health career paths after high school.”

Freshman Genesis Alvarez said the program already provides insight into health-related career options.

“I want to be a biomedical surgeon one day, so I like this program because it helps with one of the college requirements,” Alvarez said. “I like learning about the body in general because it’s just always captured my attention.”

Alvarez added that if Whittell does expand the biomedical course, she would likely continue taking the courses.

Cronk said if the program expands to higher grades, the high school could adopt a “Project Lead the Way” framework used by Douglas High School in Minden.

“Project Lead the Way” is a national nonprofit organization that develops science, technology, mathematics and engineering curriculum.

Principal Crespin Esquivel said that if Whittell continues to offer the biomedical program as a Career and Technical Education option, additional classes will need to be developed for higher grades.

“This is still exploratory, but it’s a great elective for kids,” Esquivel said.

Esquivel added that one of the high school’s goals is to offer alternative options to higher education.

“The thing we are looking for is a program we can offer students that will prepare them for a good career,” Esquivel said.

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