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Westerville High School Students Extend STEM Learning Throughout Central Ohio

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Westerville North’s EcoSummit Team




During the past few weeks, students from all three Westerville high schools participated in a variety of opportunities through Columbus State Community College, the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, and the Sam Rhine Genetics Conference hosted by Thomas Worthington High School.

On October 27, 24 juniors and counselors from each high school attended Columbus State Community College’s We Are STEM event.  Students explored the fields of skilled trades (construction science, welding and fire science), science (chemistry, biology and physics), technology (computer science and cyber security), engineering (logistics, math, and architecture), and medical and health (nursing, vet tech, and lab assistant).  Each pupil participated in three hands-on labs designed to help them learn about how different STEM disciplines impact the world of work.  Westerville North counselor Julie Taylor joined one group that saw a human cadaver first-hand while the instructor pointed out the different muscles and organs.  “Students had the opportunity to hold a human brain, and large and small intestines, along with other organs.  In the pharmacy lab, they made their own prescription by using a pestle and mortar to combine Smarties and petroleum.”  Pupils also had the opportunity to learn about enrolling in Columbus State’s Career-Technical programs as well as Associate of Science pathways. Westerville Central counselor Monica Johnson appreciated that “It gave our students a glimpse at college life and showed that Columbus State is working hard to prepare their students for their professional careers.”

The following week, seven North students and six South students participated in the first Teen EcoSummit hosted by the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium.  The goal of the program was to inspire, motivate, and assist these juniors and seniors in undertaking a sustainability project at their school.  North and South were two of only 13 schools accepted for the event.  During the two days, students attended session on grassroots project development, zero waste strategies, communication skills, goal setting, business plan development, and energy reduction.  They also had opportunities to skype with Polar Bear International scientists on site in Churchill, Manitoba (Canada), network with like-minded teens from area high schools, hear experience up close animal encounters, and explore various sections of the zoo.  The teams from both North and South focused on plans to improve the recycling rates of plastic and paper at both high schools.  The event ended with student teams presenting plans for their school-based sustainability projects to a panel of judges, who then awarded startup funds for the projects.

At the same time, AP Biology and Medical Intervention students from North and Central attended the Sam Rhine Genetics Update Conference hosted by Thomas Worthington High School.  Geneticist and educator Sam Rhine has been presenting the latest in genetic advances, hot research areas, and career opportunities to biology teachers and students for more than 20 years.  This year’s topics focused on the links between genes and cancer and the discovery and development of CRISPR (Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats), a bacterial cell organelle that can now be controlled in the laboratory to slice and dice the DNA of any biologic creature.  North AP Biology teacher Erin Morckel was impressed with conference as a great extension of the curriculum.  He said, “Sam Rhine’s lecture added authentic relevance to what students are currently learning about cell cycles and signaling.  The pace and depth emulated a college-style lecture.”