New PTLW program offers lessons in biomedicine

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Some students at Carroll County High School are trying to determine what caused a mysterious death. As part of Project Lead the Way’s Bio-medical Science curriculum, students in the introductory course are confronted with the death of Anna Garcia, a fictional woman, from the first day of class.

As the year progresses, students apply concepts from biology and medicine to the case, examining autopsy reports and studying Garcia’s medical history. Additionally, students learn about medical treatments that could have helped prevent her death or prolong her life.

“In the biomedical classes, the students learn through the application of techniques rather than through listening to lectures,” said Duke Boles, the PLTW biomedical instructor for Carroll County High School. “The Anna Garcia scenario gives students a goal to shoot for throughout the year. We use Garcia as a springboard to learn and understand different professions, techniques and equipment used for testing diseases like diabetes.”

Forty-two students are currently enrolled in the introductory PLTW Biomedical Science course, Principles of Biomedical Science. Eighteen students are taking the second course in the sequence, Human Body Systems. The third course, Medical Interventions, will be added next school year.

Project Lead the Way is a provider of engineering and biomedical science curriculum to schools nationwide. Participating schools receive training and support from PLTW while expanding pre-engineering and biomedical science course offerings for students. 

In the Carroll County School District, PLTW courses are offered starting in sixth grade through the Gateway to Technology program. All students in the middle school take one PLTW class each year: Energy and Environment in sixth grade, Green Architecture in seventh grade (which will be Medical Detectives next year), and Design and Modeling in eighth grade. 

The middle school curriculum exposes students to a broad base of engineering and biomedical content so that they are prepared to enter either of the high school PLTW pathways. 

“The vast majority of my biomedical students plan to pursue careers in the health care field,” Boles said. “These classes will give them the background that they need to succeed in rigorous undergraduate courses.”

The instructional style of the PLTW biomedical classes is unique. Rather than learn from taking notes and reading chapters from a book, students are asked to solve real-world problems.

“Each year, I make a trip to the middle school to speak with students who are interested in taking the high school biomedical pathway,” Boles said. “I tell them that I will use PowerPoint about six times over the course of the year. The rest of the time, I ask them to solve problems.  This is why PLTW students excel at problem solving and critical thinking by the time that they are finished with the course.”

By the end of the year, students will have solved the mystery of Anna Garcia’s death. Along the way, they will learn more about biomedical science and their future roles as health care providers, medical examiners and forensic crime scene analysts.

The Carroll County PLTW program is made possible by generous donations from Dow Corning, North American Stainless and the Bemis Co. 


Carl Roberts is director of public relations for Carroll County Public Schools.