New Bio-medical class at West Sound Tech

For today’s story on a fast-track certification program for teachers in career and technical education, I visit John Thornton’s Bio-medical Research & Global Health class at West Sound Technical Skills Center.

Thornton, a retired Navy corpsman, recently graduated from a program at Olympic College that counts work experience toward teacher certification. The program could help address a shortage of career and technical education teachers in Washington State, OC officials say.

There’s a growing interest in CTE, which allows students to explore possible career fields, earn certification for entry level jobs and pursue a plan of study that leads to post-secondary education with a tight focus on a specific career or skill.

Although most of Thornton’s students plan to go to college and beyond, they could qualify right now for entry level laboratory jobs.

As I toured the lab, I had to keep reminding myself these were high school students.

I interviewed lab supervisor Hannah Whitbeck, 17, of Chimacum, on her study of a new gel being used to promote clotting in battlefield wounds. Whitbeck, a senior in white lab coat, showed me around the lab, which has equipment such as a spectrophotometer, for analyzing samples by the light absorbed in each, and an incubator, in which students were cultivating bacterial samples from swabs of epithelial cells in their mouths. Nothing nasty found, by the way.

Brandon Hoover a South Kitsap High School junior had designed a water purification system using materials, like cardboard, rocks and plastic funnels, that could be readily found in most settings, including third world countries. He called it the Zimbabwe Project. The frame is made of sturdy recycled cardboard. Water is poured through a series of funnels. The rocks remove larger debris. The water is then boiled and the steam is captured as condensed water in five-gallon jugs.

Kelsey Lantrip also of South Kitsap High School, researched the potential toxicity of crumb rubber used in artificial turf. Lantrip showed me Petri dishes containing samples from turf fields at Bainbridge Island’s Strawberry Hill Park and South Kitsap High School’s new turf field, which uses natural materials like ground coconut husks instead of crumb rubber, as on most turf fields.

Lantrip said she tested to see whether the samples were mutagenic, likely to increase the frequency of mutation in an organism. South Kitsap’s samples were not mutagenic; the Bainbridge samples were. Granted the samples are small, and this is not proof that either substance is carcinogenic or safe. But it’s a start. “I think this is a small portion of what could be done,” said Lantrip, who advocates systematic study of turf fields, as has been proposed nationally.

Carry on, kids, and thanks for the tour.

The students took a trip to Seattle’s Gum Wall, before it was demolished and took lab samples. They were even interviewed by a Seattle TV station. Remarkably, all they found was normal flora.

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