New Biomedical Sciences Program

Students who have a keen interest in science and medicine are in luck as Foothill launches a new biomedical sciences program with an innovative approach to education.

The biomedical sciences program was developed by the national group Project Lead the Way, which develops programs with rigorous science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) curriculum.

"It's important because we have a great demand from students with the increase in number of science and math classes," Principal John Dwyer said. "We are looking for ways to offer STEM opportunities for the kids. We're hearing from colleges and employers that that's a big area of demand. We want to make sure that our course offerings and classes really reflect the trends in employment and education."

A parent information meeting to explain and discuss the new biomedical sciences program will be held Wednesday, Feb. 6 at 6 p.m. in the multipurpose room. A separate info session for students will be held during lunch Monday, Feb. 4 in the multipurpose room.

The evening's guest speaker will be Oscar Wambuguh, a Cal State East Bay professor and Project Lead the Way area coordinator.

The new program will take four years to fully implement as one new class is added each year in the four-course program. The first class, to be offered next school year, is principles of biomedical sciences. It's an introduction to biology concepts through the study of human diseases.

The next four classes, with one introduced each year, are human body systems, medical interventions and biomedical innovations.

The classes are targeted at "students who are interested in sciences and particularly medical professions," Dwyer said. "It's a really motivating and stimulating course with a practical, hands-on and career-based focus."

Students in any grade can sign up for next year's introductory course. The course is not listed on Zangle, so students will have to turn in a supplemental scheduling sheet to request the new course. Students who get into the course will be eligible for a seven-period day.

The program was recently given the green light by the school district, pending formal approval by the school board. Amador Valley High School is in its first year of a Project Lead the Way curriculum targeted at engineering.

Foothill currently offers some biomedical science courses through the regional occupational program (ROP), but not all of those classes are at the college prep level. The four Project Lead the Way classes count toward college admission.

While the school district will provide the initial funding for the program, Foothill must seek ongoing support from local businesses and through grants.

"We have to partner with businesses and medical professions in order to make it something that can be sustained," Dwyer said.

The biomedical courses introduce students to the human body, cell biology, genetics, disease and other biomedical topics. Students get hands-on learning, such as dissecting a heart, and will hear from guest speakers in key biomedical fields.

The curriculum makes math and science relevant while striving to help students understand how the skills they learn in the classroom can be applied to everyday life.

"It brings kids to the college level with great knowledge," Dwyer said. "Kids who are involved in these kinds of programs tend to have higher graduation rates from college than do kids who were not involved."

"I'm really excited about it," he added. "It meets kids' needs. It's a series of courses that has really good hands-on activities and practical applications. It's going to attract a lot of students who are interested in the medical profession. The practical aspect of it is really intriguing."

By Zoe Francis
Posted Thursday, Jan. 31, 2013