February 11, 2022
Advancing their arm. Medical Interventions students Gabi Harvey (11) and Chloe Reynolds (11) test out their prosthetic arm’s ability to lift a cup after constructing it.
In Project Lead the Way Medical Interventions, students are putting themselves in the place of healthcare workers to learn about medical treatments and patient support.
The class, taught by Mrs. Chelsea Hayes, covers four units: the spread of infection, genetic diseases, cancer, and organ failure, with each topic requiring students to think like a medical professional on how to treat patients with these diseases. However, the class is unique in its learning style.
“It’s project-based and lab-based, so rather than doing traditional direct instruction, we do more student-guided learning,” Mrs. Hayes said. “[This] makes it a lot more fun for students, because you get to take more advantage of your learning.”
Mrs. Hayes believes this style of learning is the most challenging part of the class but is also extremely beneficial to students.
“I think project-based learning is uncomfortable for students at first,” Mrs. Hayes said. “But it forces you to take more responsibility for your learning and also helps you to figure out how you learn best.”
Students like Gabi Harvey (11) enjoy this aspect of the class because of the freedom it gives them to explore the material on their own terms. Because the class is student-led, students first turn to each other to solve problems and answer questions.
“It’s really nice not having her [Mrs. Hayes] stop and explain everything to us, and we can go at our own pace,” Harvey said. “We take the information given to us and do our own research. We bounce our ideas off of one another and see how we can make something out of it.”
In the class’ current cancer unit, students learned about cancer on the cellular and molecular levels. Then, they were tasked with designing a prosthetic arm for an imaginary patient whose arm was amputated due to osteosarcoma, a type of bone cancer. The goal was for the prosthetic to bend up and down at an elbow joint and pick up a cup of water and set it back down, with extra credit being awarded to groups that could drink the water from the cup. Each group of students had different methods for designing and putting together their arms.
“It always starts with drawing in the lab notebook, which I think more things should start there because it’s a really good way to get thoughts out,” senior Ben Edwards said
Harvey’s group started by focusing on movements that the joint needed to make, such as abduction and adduction. They then determined which materials worked best for the different parts of the model and how they could use string to move it. Eventually, they ran into the challenge of how to bring their design to life.
“We had all of the materials and all of the time that we needed, but something that came into play was how to put things together,” Harvey said. “It was more of what do we use to put this cardboard with this cardboard and what would make it stable enough so that you could pick it up and use it.”
Much of the class, whether projects or homework assignments, is done in groups, something that is both a challenge and an advantage to students.
“Collaboration and creativity together don’t always mix well, so I think it’s [challenging] learning how to express your own creative thoughts and merge them with others,” said Mrs. Hayes.
Edwards agrees, noticing that collaboration when things went wrong was the most challenging part of the prosthetic project.
“Everyone starts arguing about what the best solution is…that we all agreed on that would work as the next step,” Edwards said. “Eventually, you land on one and it feels great.”
Harvey enjoys the collaboration of the projects, saying that “using our own ideas and bouncing off one another is really beneficial.”
Over the course of the project, students were able to apply the science and medicine they were learning to a patient case study, a central focus of Medical Interventions.
“It makes you think about how it affects people more,” Mrs. Hayes said. “I think it’s easy to compartmentalize the science of it, but…PLTW does a really good job with [giving] practical ways of how you can actually help people.”
Harvey and Edwards both agree that this aspect of the class provides great practice for a future in the healthcare field.
“Because of this [class], when I get into college and grad school, I feel like I’ll be ahead of the curve,” Edwards said.