School board looks to approve new science course

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    Supt. Max McGee listens as science department head Kelli Hagen gives her proposal at a school board meeting last Tuesday in the district office for a new course called Principles of Biomedical Science, which is a science class based on hands-on project learning, according to Hagen.

    The Palo Alto Unified School District Board of Education will vote on the addition of a new science course, Principles of Biomedical Science, at a meeting on March 8 in the district office.

    Principles of Biomedical Science fulfills the California State University and University of California “g” requirement, and pending the board’s approval, will be taught at Palo Alto High School starting in the 2016-17 school year.

    Board member Ken Dauber supports the creation of the new course, as it employs the project-based learning ideals that the board has been looking to implement in PAUSD schools.

    “I don’t see any drawbacks to approving the course,” Dauber said. “I’m happy to see courses that use project-based learning and other alternative approaches, because I think it helps to improve learning for students. The focus on biomedical science also gives Paly students a very solid introduction to one of the most important career areas in the 21st-century economy.”

    Kelli Hagen, head of the science department, is optimistic that the course will pass through the vote.

    “[The board] seemed to really like the course and I hope they plan to pass it at the next board meeting,” Hagen said. “As long as enough [Paly students] sign up [for the course], it will run.”

    Hagen explains that students participating in Principles of Biomedicine will learn about biology and medicine by examining case studies.

    “While investigating [a case], students will examine autopsy reports, investigate medical history and explore medical treatments that might have prolonged the person’s life,” Hagen said. “The activities and projects introduce students to human physiology, basic biology, medicine and research processes while allowing them to design their own experiments to solve problems.”

    Hagen was inspired to bring the course to Paly after a few of the science teachers attended a STEM symposium where they learned about Project Lead the Way, a non-profit organization that designs STEM courses for kids of all ages.

    According to the PLTW website, Project Lead The Way “deliver[s] STEM programs to more than 8,000 elementary, middle and high schools in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.” Some of its other courses include “PLTW Computer Science” and “PLTW Engineering.”

    “I was excited to bring the program to Paly and organized a group of teachers to visit local PLTW schools at the beginning of this school year, to see the program in action,” Hagen said. “We really liked what we saw and thought that it would be a great program to bring to Paly.”

    While Principles of Biomedical Science is the only PLTW course that will be offered for the 2016-17 school year, Hagen hopes that more PLTW courses will be introduced into the Paly curriculum in future years.

    “Principles of Biomedical Science is the first of many course programs that we could potentially bring to Paly if it is successful,” Hagen said.

    According to Hagen, if the course receives positive feedback, it may also be offered to underclassmen in coming years.

    Rising juniors and seniors who wish to sign up for the course for the 2016-17 school year can find it by searching “Prnc BioMe” or “3954” on the course selection tool of Infinite Campus.

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