BETHEL, Ohio - Ask a group of juniors and seniors if they'd like to extend their school year to study science and technology and you might get a blank stare. One local teacher managed to spark the interest of students through a new program.
School: Grant Career Center
Where: Bethel, Ohio
Grades: 11 - 12
Teacher: Kristine Brookover
A new biotechnology satellite program offered at Bethel-Tate High School through Grant Career Center is off to a popping start. Although the 2013-2014 school year concluded in May, some students from the class continued their studies through June 27, when they presented a research project in a national competition.
“I was very proud of them. It was their very first time ever doing this, and they did very well,” said biotechnology teacher Kristine Brookover.
Diversifying career opportunities
Located in Bethel, Ohio, Grant Career Center is a vocational school offering a variety of programs for high school juniors and seniors in four Clermont County school districts. Grant students come from:
- Bethel-Tate Local School District
- Felicity-Franklin Local School District
- New Richmond Exempted Village School District
- Williamsburg Local School District
About 250 students attend Grant, studying for careers in fields ranging from automotive service technology to cosmetology and allied health science.
With enrollment up this year, administrators face the challenge of offering new programs that are relevant to students.
“We’re trying to find more ways to offer more diverse career training for students,” said Pam McKinney, Public Relations Director.
The biotechnology program, which was first offered during the 2013-2014 school year, is one way of keeping up with the demand.
Skills for careers
Biotechnology is a two-year program for juniors and seniors. It is “basically a lab science class,” which students attend each school day for two and a half hours, Brookover said. Because it is a satellite program, the class is held at Bethel-Tate High School, rather than Grant.
“I like that it’s at our home school. It makes the transition easier than going to Grant every day,” said Emilie Shouse, who will be a senior at Bethel-Tate High School this fall.
The course gives students skills for careers in research facilities, agriculture and medical labs. While biology is a large part of the class, the technology aspect is emphasized as well.
“It’s using technology to take something living and enhance or improve quality of life,” Brookover said
The program delves into topics including workplace safety, microbiology, genetics, food science, immunology and plant culturing.
“I found out I love the chemistry part,” said Chloe Henderson, who will be a senior this fall.
Going into her junior year, Henderson was not sure what she wanted to do, but after one year studying biotechnology, she wants to pursue a biochemistry degree at The Ohio State University. She hopes to eventually hold a career in the pharmaceutical industry.
Gold standard teamwork
In addition to learning about various science topics over the course of the school year, five students also learned through a SkillsUSA competition. Although five students worked on the project, only three were allowed to compete.
SkillsUSA is a nonprofit organization for teachers, high school students and college students preparing for careers in trade, technical and service occupations. Each year, SkillsUSA holds state conferences and a national conference. During the conferences, teams of vocational students and individuals compete against each other, using their trade skills and presenting research projects.
Although Grant students regularly compete at SkillsUSA conferences, Brookover and the students in the satellite program were unfamiliar with the organization. Despite knowing little about it and having short notice, the biotechnology team earned a gold rating at the state conference for a research project on genetically modified corn and soybeans.
Three students from Grant Career Center's biotechnology program competed at the 2014 SkillsUSA National Leadership and Skills Conference. (Photo provided by Kristine Brookover)
The students performed tests to determine whether the plants were actually genetically modified, whether their protein levels differed from non-GMO products and whether they had the same types of protein. Through the project, the students developed teamwork, leadership and presentation skills, Brookover said.
“I think the students, especially those who competed, really embraced that and had the dedication and motivation to see it through,” she added.
Because the team placed well at the state conference, they had the opportunity to take their project to the national conference, which was held in Kansas City, Mo., in June. There, the team took eighth place.
“Although we didn’t win at nationals, it was a huge success,” Henderson said.
Translating to the real world
So far, the biotechnology program is off to a good start, Brookover said.
“Students really enjoyed it because it’s very applicable to careers they’re interested in,” she added.
With the program still in its early stages, it was a learning lesson for both her and her students.
“There area lot of things we’ve learned and will improve on in the future,” she said.
In addition to making changes to the biotechnology program, Grant Career Center staff and faculty will continue updating and expanding program options. A criminal justice program also was added during the 2013-2014 school year, McKinney said. This fall, a new facility will open for equine science and veterinary science programs. A new information technology satellite program will be offered as well, at Williamsburg High School.
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