Iowa City Press-Citizen: Future Looks Bright for STEM Resources

Sunday, November 10, 2013

UI works toward project affiliation, Career Academy to get new home

Area high school students may see a boost to health and other science education resources during the next several years, according to several local education officials.

Possible changes could include the University of Iowa affiliating with the Project Lead the Way biomedical curriculum and a new facility for Kirkwood Career Academy classes currently taught at the Iowa City Community School District’s Theodore Roosevelt Education Center, officials said.

Edwin Dove, associate professor of biomedical engineering at UI, said he’s working with UI and Kirkwood officials to establish UI as the Project Lead the Way biomedical curriculum affiliate for Iowa. This would allow teachers in the state to learn the curriculum locally, rather than out of state.

“We would teach teachers, and teachers would teach students,” he said.

Project Lead the Way is a national curriculum used to educate students in fields related to STEM — science, technology, engineering and math. The biomedical classes would cover topics including human biology, human physiology and anatomy, Dove said.

If UI was established as an affiliate, teachers could seek professional development in the biomedical curriculum at locations including UI and the future Johnson County Kirkwood Regional Center.

Dove said officials are developing a proposal to present to the national Project Lead the Way, based in Indianapolis. Courses could be available in 2015 if the proposal is accepted, Dove said.

In the meantime, health-related options for high school students include health Career Academy classes that allow students to earn high school credit and certification as nursing assistants.

Career Academies are sets of classes that students advance through together in order to learn more about possible career choices, said Lisa Folken, associate director of the Jones County Kirkwood Regional Center.

The health Career Academy and two others — a set of EMT courses and courses in construction and architecture — likely will move from Iowa City’s Theodore Roosevelt Education Center to the Johnson County Kirkwood Regional Center after its proposed opening date in 2015, said Jon Weih, future interim director of the center.

Improvements at the new facility could include increased access to technology, space for construction labs and air-conditioning, Weih said.

He said Kirkwood and Iowa City Community School District officials arranged to offer the classes at TREC in part as a test run of their future partnership at the Kirkwood Regional Center.

“I really applaud the Iowa City school district for working with us this way,” he said.

Brooke Shivers, who teaches medical terminology in the health Career Academy at TREC, said she thinks the move will provide a steadier central location for students.

“I think it would be a better home,” Shivers said.

Amy Ellsworth, who also teaches medical terminology, said she thinks the new location will allow students to learn in a more hands-on way.

Ellsworth said the health career courses help students determine whether they’re truly interested in the health profession.

She said students can encounter inaccurate portrayals of health care professions in the media, but classes at TREC help them understand the work and time it takes to become a health care professional.

“It’s not an easy pathway,” she said.

She said she hopes the courses show students that earning the knowledge and skills is worth it.

Reach Holly Hines at hhines2@press-citizen.com or at 887-5414.