New course offers students more real-world experience than expected

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HOLLAND, Mich. (WOOD) — As the bell rings and students get ready for their third hour, Bob Meyers stands at the front of his class waiting to begin. He’s been teaching for 31 years and has spent the last 22 at West Ottawa teaching mostly about the human body.

But this year, Meyers has started a new journey through the human body, taking his students along with him. He’s teaching medical Interventions. It’s a course developed by Project Lead the Way — a non-profit with a mission to provide a transformative learning experience for pre-K through 12th grade students and teachers across the U.S.

“It’s more or less a microbiology course for the most part,” Meyers said. “Students are spending a lot of time learning about what goes on inside on the cellular level, at the DNA level, and how to manipulate the DNA.”

The program is based on case studies and follows a fictitious family throughout the year as the students provide different medical interventions based on the outcomes of their labs.

It’s a more hands-on approach than any of these students have experienced in a high school classroom.

“We’re learning about like individual cells and like what their cell walls are doing with antibiotics. I’ve never had that kind of experience in a different class,” senior Owen Thomas said. “Like, I don’t go to pre-calculus and they’re like, this is why they wrote the number six the way it is. But we’re like going, pretty much down to like atom level when it comes to like these kinds of like concepts.”

Thomas and his senior lab partner, Reese Bentley never imagined in high school they would be creating antibiotic-resistance bacteria. But that’s exactly what one of the assignments had them do — mix strains of E. coli with different antibiotics until the bacteria beat the antibiotics. 

“I was already kind of interested in wanting to go more in-depth with all this stuff,” Bentley said about his dreams of pursuing medicine. “Then just kind of grew my interest to want to learn even more with all this stuff.”

Meyers says in all his years he has never had a student say, “why do we need to learn this?” The proof is in the mirror he says. But this year, it has become even more pertinent.

“It’s pretty ironic, the stuff we’re doing right now and how timely it is in the news. Being able to pull out an article from the newspaper, talking about using an Eliza test to diagnose antigens or antibodies for COVID, and then here, the kids are, the same day, doing an Eliza test in our lab,” Meyers said.

In fact, one of the assignments that were built by Project Lead the Way before the pandemic has the students track a viral outbreak on a college campus and trace the spread into their fictitious family.

“I wasn’t even expecting to take this class. I wanted to, but I wasn’t sure if I was going to get in and then once everything with COVID started happening,” senior Aubrey Patchin said about her doubts of being in medical interventions. “Now we’re studying all this, it kind of helps. So, I can, when I see things on the news, I’m able to reflect back to this class and like put all the pieces together to understand.”

Her senior lab partner, Allie Langdon, agrees. And she’s found a new appreciation for the healthcare workers on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I didn’t even realize like people actually do that,” Langdon said about the tedious and precise testing for antigens and antibodies. “I figured that the machines did most of the work.”

When Meyers looks out into his classroom, he sees the future minds of the medical field in training. This course allows them to see nearly every aspect of it from the cell walls to the jobs — technicians, doctors, nurse practitioners, and everything in between. And he knows that one day this class will have been an important starting line for the patients on the other side of his students.

“These kids are going to leave here and, in a few years, they’re going to be doctors, nurses, Pas. I’m going to be retired and I’m going to be walking into a clinic somewhere and they’re going to be the ones poking in prodding me,” Meyers said. “It’s going to be a weird thing to be in that position, but it’ll, I think it’ll be also something I’m really proud of.”



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