2016-11-25 / Schools

Training the doctors of tomorrow

Katherine introduces Medical Health Academy
By Michael Aushenker


YOUNG SCIENTISTS—Katherine Elementary students Logan Ruddick and Khloe Thompson give a presentation on what they’ve learned about the human body during the Nov. 15 meeting of the Simi Valley school board. Katherine has launched a medical-based career pathway that serves as a feeder program to Valley View Middle School’s forensics and anatomy program. 
Photo courtesy of Jamie Snodgrass YOUNG SCIENTISTS—Katherine Elementary students Logan Ruddick and Khloe Thompson give a presentation on what they’ve learned about the human body during the Nov. 15 meeting of the Simi Valley school board. Katherine has launched a medical-based career pathway that serves as a feeder program to Valley View Middle School’s forensics and anatomy program. Photo courtesy of Jamie Snodgrass Seven Katherine Elementary kids wearing lab coats carried faux skeletons, giant craniums and other handmade anatomical representations as they approached members of the Simi Valley school board.

Then, each student spent a few minutes personally lecturing a trustee about what they had learned at school about the human body.

The purpose of the presentation, which was made during the Nov. 15 meeting of the Simi Valley Unified School District board of education under the guidance of Principal Jamie Snodgrass, was to bring district leaders up to speed on Katherine’s new medical based career pathway, dubbed the Medical Health Academy.

A feeder program to Valley View Middle School’s forensics and anatomy curriculum and Simi Valley High School’s biotechnology concentration, Katherine’s academy began in August. According to Snodgrass, it’s been well-received by kids and parents alike.

The medical-related classes are offered on a rotation, with teachers instructing different topics. While the academy carves out part of the school schedule on Tuesdays and Thursdays for the classes, it doesn’t mean Katherine’s students have to pursue a medical education if their passions lie elsewhere. Those who are interested, however, can supplement their education with an after-school enrichment program.

“I have not heard one negative about having to go to the rotation,” Snodgrass said. “It’s not just the teaching of the topics but having that ability to (experience different) teaching styles.”

Getting staff up to speed

Katherine began preparing for the Medical Health Academy last year with 28 students in a twice-weekly after-school enrichment program focused on the human body. As of this school year, health education became the school’s official focus.

Students in the older grades are now learning about muscles, the skeletal system, hearing, vision and teeth. Kids take what they’ve learned and create “digital portfolios” on Google Drive, in which kids store their “artifacts” — images, slide shows, sleep study charts and other medical-themed ephemera — in online folders.

Snodgrass has been directing her educators to use the website healthykids.org to help them design their lessons.

“I wanted to make sure that the teachers felt comfortable taking on something totally out of their wheelhouse, so they wouldn’t feel turned off by integrating this into the classroom,” she said.

Snodgrass said she herself has enjoyed learning health-related factoids, since her professional background was grounded in the external, not the internal. From 2005 to 2012, she worked as a social sciences teacher at Royal High School, teaching government and history.

Three years ago, she came to Katherine as principal in order to have an effect on children at an earlier developmental level.

“There’s definitely a need for an elementary education that needs to be very solid,” she said. “(Early education is) the foundation for their success.”

A good prognosis

Snodgrass said the school will soon build on its health academy curriculum. Next year, the academy will add the topics of disease and disease prevention, nutrition and outdoor contagions.

Katherine students will be participating in a Nov. 30 disaster simulation at Simi Valley High School, which is put on by the Community Emergency Response Team. Snodgrass coordinated with Amanda Shrock, head of SVHS’ Teachers of Tomorrow program, and Jessica Ellis, CERT teacher, to stage the event, which will simulate a campus-wide fire. Representatives from the Ventura County Fire Department will be there to lecture students.

Thus far, the principal said, the prognosis for Katherine’s new academy is very good.

“The parent feedback is really great,” she said. “I am pleasantly surprised by how interested and engaged the students are and how much the parents are appreciating the knowledge they’re gaining.”

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