Warren-Beaty Middle School creating Medical Detectives

Times Observer photo by Lorri Drumm Eighth grade students at Warren Beaty Middle School research medical disorders in a new class called “Medical Detectives.” The class has been offered as part of a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) initiative throughout the Warren County School District.

Warren County School District officials left Warren Beaty Middle School Wednesday assured that when it comes to solving medical mysteries and creating apps and adaptive equipment, the future is in some creative minds and capable hands.

School board members, administrators and teachers toured the school to observe and talk to students taking newly-implemented STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) classes.

Prior to heading into the classrooms, Eric Mineweaser, supervisor of elementary education for the school district, explained that the classes being offered were brand new this year.

Eighth grade students can now elect to take a semester-long class called Medical Detectives. Students in grades six and seven are now required to take a nine-week class called App Creators, where they learn to design, model and create applications.

Amy Stewart, the district’s superintendent, told those on the tour that the classes and training originated from the district’s involvement in Project Lead The Way. Teachers interested in the STEM classes attended training last summer and implemented classes this school year.

Project Lead The Way provides transformative learning experiences for elementary through high school students and teachers across the country. The curriculum creates a hands-on classroom environment and allows students to work together to problem-solve and create solutions to the problems, Stewart said.

The district surveyed students last year to guage their interest in various classes offered. Stewart said the Medical Detectives class was a popular choice.

Mineweaser asked the eighth-grade students seated around lab tables with laptops handy if they preferred working as a team to figure out problems as opposed to having a teacher lecture to them. The students affirmed their desire to take an active role in the learning process.

The eighth grade students in the Medical Detectives class have progressed from interviewing teachers who volunteered to have a disease to researching the effects of those diseases.

Molly Suppa, an eighth-grader thinking of a career in the medical field, told Mineweaser and Stewart that the research led the students “deeper into the brain.”

The class will literally do that soon as they dissect sheep brains. The preliminary opinions for that assignment were mixed among the other students at the table with Suppa.

School District Board Member Amy Huffman took a few minutes to pick the student’s brains for suggestions and ideas for improvements. Some told her they liked using laptops while others said a tablet would work better.

Stewart reminded the students to take part in an end-of-the-year follow up survey that will assist teachers and administrators as they work out any kinks.

The tour then headed downstairs to a room that had been a computer lab. The room was equipped with new tear-shaped tables purposefully designed to encourage collaboration, Stewart said. Each table had six chairs around it and a power source in the middle.

Approximately 26 sixth grade students who just started the nine-week Creating Apps class this week filled the room.

Craig King, teacher of the new class, explained how the students had each drawn a prototype of a therapeutic toy and an ankle brace for a person with cerebral palsy. Wednesday’s assignment required each group of students to select one model and start creating it.

The materials needed are provided and the students must stay within a budget, King explained. “That’s how we keep the projects from getting too big or taking too long,” he said.

Stewart told the students that it’s okay to embrace a new way of learning. “I know you’re used to things being right or wrong but there is no right or wrong here,” she said. ‘This is a collaboration.”