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LWSD's Signature Programs combine academic rigor, real-world learning in STEM
The Lake Washington School District (LWSD) has launched its new Signature Programs this year, which are designed to make the connection with what students are learning in high school and what they will do after they graduate.
These thematic, interdisciplinary three-period instructional blocks combine rigorous academics and "real world" application of learning in areas like global health and sustainability.
These courses engage students in problem-based learning and industry-based projects. Community partnerships connect students to the real world. Students also will earn academic credit in specified areas required for graduation.
For example, Juanita High School's Global Health Signature Program will provide credit toward graduation in English, anatomy and physiology and biotechnology. The teachers of these three subjects are working together to create opportunities for deeper learning. For example, during a unit on influenza, students will read "The Great Influenza," by John M. Barry, for English. They will get a historical perspective and learn about some of the early scientific research on the disease. They will learn about the immune system and lymphatic system for anatomy and physiology. Biotechnology will cover ELISA testing as a technique for diagnosing patient exposure to different strains of influenza. Students will learn how recombinant DNA technology and protein purification are used to protect against novel strains of the disease.
In addition, a partnership with EvergreenHealth will give students an opportunity to work closely with health care professionals to job shadow providers across the organization and receive professional advice and insight into the health care industry.
The students have already collaborated with EvergreenHealth to create an original logo for the partnership, which is featured on lab coats donated by the health system for each of the student participants.
"It is very exciting to see our vision for STEM Signature Programs come to fruition," said Superintendent Dr. Traci Pierce. "We are extremely grateful for the partnership with Evergreen and the opportunities afforded to our students."
EvergreenHealth CEO Bob Malte added, "Partnerships like these are so important to the future of the health care field. We're committed to increasing access to STEM education resources for schools across our community and we look forward to launching this effort with these talented and bright Juanita students."
EvergreenHealth staff members welcomed students and launched the partnership at a meeting at the hospital on September 18.
Students learned more about opportunities to access EvergreenHealth's people and resources for course projects as well as exposure to careers and postsecondary areas of study. In the influenza unit, students will learn about EvergreenHealth's public health efforts in their flu-vaccination program.
The programs that launched this fall are organized around career clusters and pathways in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). Later Signature Programs will address other career clusters. Signature Programs also began this fall at Emerson High School, Redmond High School and the STEM School. Programs will launch in 2014-15 at Eastlake High School, International Community School and Lake Washington High School.
Redmond's program is also on Global Health, with a different twist from the Juanita approach. This three-course block covers English, social studies and science. Units in this course will cover global nutrition, water supply, infant and maternal health and health care in conflict and disaster zones. The class will address the causes of and propose solutions for these global health issues.
Redmond's program is working closely with the University of Washington Public Health and Global Health departments, Swedish Hospital and Fred Hutchinson's HIV Vaccine Trials Network.
The STEM School will offer two signature programs, in environmental engineering and sustainable design and in forensics/psychology. Emerson's Signature Program focuses on sustainability.
The Lake Washington Schools Foundation, Paul G. Allen Family Foundation and Waste Management Inc. have provided funding for the new program.