South Mecklenburg High School will begin offering a new biomedical science program within its expanding Career and Technical Education Department in fall.
The program is through Project Lead the Way, a national nonprofit program designed to encourage science, technology, engineering and mathematics learning. The sequence of courses - for grades nine to 12 - will introduce students to topics such as physiology, genetics, public health and microbiology.
The program's four courses are: Principles of Biomedicine, Human Body Systems, Medical Interventions and Biomedical Innovations.
South Meck will start with two courses, then continue to expand.
A handful of current biology and health science teachers will undergo an intense two-week training period in order to teach the new courses.
The goal is to prepare students to pursue post-secondary education and careers in the biomedical sciences.
Science teacher Debbie Beam, a former head nurse and who used to teach in the nursing school at Presbyterian Hospital, said she's been looking forward to this program for years.
"I'm so excited," said Beam. The students "know about doctors and nurses, but there are so many other jobs (in the field)."
But even if students aren't interested in a medical career and merely are curious about the subject matter, the classes will teach them more than facts and figures, says Michael Waskew, Charlotte-Mecklenburg School's CTE director for the southwest zone.
South Mecklenburg High School is one of 4,200 schools nationwide accredited by Project Lead the Way to offer specialized STEM educational curricular program. The school has hosted PLTW's Pathway to Engineering program since 2007.
But the biomedical program isn't a typical textbook-learning course. Students will explore concepts of human medicine through hands-on projects and problem-solving - especially when there's not an exact answer.
Through activities including dissecting a heart, students will examine the processes, structures and interactions of the human body. They'll explore how to diagnose, prevent and treat disease.
They'll also investigate and design solutions to some modern health challenges.
Students who take the classes will get an honors credit and possibly even the equivalent of an Advanced Placement course, as the higher-level courses can involve college credit.
"More than ever before, it's all about how to think and how to learn, not about what you know," said South Mecklenburg Principal Maureen Furr.
And, said Furr, the new biomedical science program will teach students those 21st-century skills.
"It's just gory enough, just cool enough and interesting enough," she said. "Teach through whatever venue you can find."