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STEM comes to Symmes Valley High

Students from high and middle schools begin hands-on learning

WILLOW WOOD — People passing through Symmes Valley High School’s halls on Wednesday were greeted by an unusual site.

A mock crime scene was set up, blocked off by police tape, with a mannequin as a dead body, surrounded by several pieces of evidence, such as syringes, magazines with fingerprints, pills and other items.

It was all part of the first week of the school’s newly-added STEM education classes, as part of the Project Lead the Way program through Collins Career Technical Center.

A group of about 19 ninth and tenth graders from the bio-med class gathered around the scene, making sketches, taking photos and jotting down notes on what they saw.

When they returned to class, teacher Justin Wine, who also serves as instructor for the Gateway to Technology course, asked the students to call out their findings.

“What if they were taking medication and overdosed?” one asked.

Another asked if it was known what the blood type of the victim was.

“That hasn’t been tested yet,” Wine said. “But since you said that, we will be doing blood typing in this class.”

Wine, who also teaches PLTW classes at South Point, said this is his second year of teaching for the program, having also taught at Chesapeake High School last year.

He said in total, 58 students from the middle and high schools at Symmes Valley are taking part in the courses.

Two sections of bio-med are offered to ninth and tenth graders, while eighth graders are enrolled in the technology course. All classes meet in the lab room at the high school.

Classes started last week at Symmes Valley and this week marked the first immersion into STEM projects.

For the technology class, Wine said students were working to design an orthosis brace to be worn on the foot by patients with cerebral palsy.

“It has to meet certain design criteria,” he said. “They were given a pile of arts and crafts materials and this is their first project.”

Greg Bowman, the principal of the high school, said the addition of the STEM courses has been going well.

“The students seem to be enjoying it,” he said. “And that’s not the least bit unexpected.”

He noted the unusual display in the hall, part of the hands-on nature of the classes.

“I can’t believe they wasted guacamole,” he joked, of the simulated vomit next to the body.

Bowman said about 35 students from the high school are enrolled in the program, which is designed for a four-year course of study. He said, for the first year, the school had decided to also allow 10th graders to begin the program, allowing for a three-year plan.

“It’s going to expand, by the nature of the program,” he said of the enrollment, which would see a new class of first-year students annually.

One of the students taking part in the bio-med class was Aaliyah Qualls, of the ninth grade.

“I really like the medical field,” she said. “I wanted to pursue that and thought this class would give me the enlightenment.”

One of the students, ninth grader Ian Burcham, had a bit of a head start on the program.

“I took it for two years at Chesapeake Middle School,” he said of his former school, where STEM classes are offered starting in seventh grade. “I wanted to get at least another two years.”

Gary Salyer, the transition coordinator for PLTW, was on hand for the first week of courses, along with Matt Monteville, director of satellite operations for Collins.

Salyer said the students working on the orthosis brace were embarking on a course of study similar to one of the program’s success stories.

He said a former Lawrence County student was interning for a start-up company while attending the University of Cincinnati and was given the task of solving a medical issue.

“Some patients have immune deficiencies that requires medication every six hours,” he said.

He said she was able to create a device that adheres to the body and delivers medication at specified times.

“The exact same techniques they’re using here, she did to do that,” Salyer said. “It’s problem-solving, teamwork, innovation and creative thinking.”

PLTW courses are offered in six school districts in Lawrence County through Collins Career Center.

In addition to CCTC’s offerings, STEM education is also being offered by the new Tri-State STEM+M Early College High School in South Point.