APS Column: Medical Detectives exploring health

Published 5:44 pm Friday, November 18, 2022

By Blake Henely

IJ Holton Assistant Principal

Here at I.J. Holton Intermediate School, we focus on Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts, and Math (STEAM). As such, we offer a variety of elective courses and opportunities to support our students in their STEAM education, including music, tech team, and Project Lead the Way (PLTW) courses. PLTW courses give students the opportunity to explore STEAM topics through hands-on projects that foster problem solving skills in addition to critical and creative thinking.

When I.J. Holton Intermediate School opened 10 years ago, we offered one PLTW class. Over the years, we have been able to expand our offerings and we currently have five courses, including: Innovation and Makers, Automation and Robotics, Design and Modeling, Green Architecture, and Medical Detectives. Both Green Architecture and Medical Detectives are new this year.

Medical Detectives is a course that supports the current health class by offering students hands-on approaches with various labs. One of the labs that students participate in is being able to identify vital signs in a patient. Students explore what impacts vital signs as they explore respiratory rate, heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature. This provides students with a background in looking for these signs and symptoms of an individual who may not be feeling well or that could be experiencing a medical emergency.

In sixth grade, students will be exploring a sheep’s brain to look for signs of cancer. Different beads have been planted within the sheep’s brain which signal a different kind of illness or cancer, and students will dissect the brain to identify structures and locate the beads. Students then will need to research more about what caused the illness and explore potential cures.

The final lab that students will participate in is an “Outbreak.” Following a neighborhood potluck, several people become severely ill and become hospitalized. The students need to become medical detectives and discover what caused the outbreak.

Throughout the course, students are exposed to different careers within the medical field, many of which are offered at Riverland and available through the Hormel Foundation Austin Assurance Scholarship. The Medical Detective teacher is a former EMT who can draw on his own personal experiences in the medical profession and pull in additional resources to support the course.

At the end of the semester, sixth grade students will take a field trip to the Hormel Research Institute. Students will be able to explore the research labs, and work with technicians and doctors in a world class laboratory. This field trip connects back to the course work that the students completed throughout the semester in Medical Detectives. These experiences would not be possible without the community partnerships available here in Austin.