Renny Whittenbarger, Career and Technological Education supervisor, said the new program might be called Medical Careers.
“Everybody has the idea they might be a doctor, so that will be appealing to them,” Whittenbarger said. “Hopefully, it will keep them motivated during class.”
The program is the first of its kind for middle school students in Tennessee. Whittenbarger said the city school system received approval from the state department of education to run CMS’ program as a pilot for the state. They are currently in the process of creating the standards and competencies for the course.
Further information will be sent off to the state once the standards are decided.
Whittenbarger said there will be differences between how the sixth, seventh and eighth-grade courses are presented to students.
“The sixth-grade is going to be more fast paced. There will be a quick change from project to project to keep the kids engaged, just because of their attention spans,” Whittenbargers said. “So there will be a lot of career research and hands-on activities related to [those subjects].”
He said sixth-graders are likely to study a position like surgical technician for a day or two. The students would then complete a hands-on activity related to the surgical technician’s profession. Whittenbarger said this would hopefully keep them engaged in the material.
Subjects will be researched more in-depth in the seventh and eighth grades.
“They will get into taking blood pressures, temperature and working with mannequins to practice CPR,” Whittenbarger said. “It will be a snapshot of what it is like at the high school.”
Courses offered at Cleveland High School currently include a basic level health sciences course, medical therapeutics, forensics and biomedical engineering. Whittenbarger has proposed students who go through all three years of the health sciences course in middle school be exempt from the high school’s basic level.
The state department will have a final say in whether students will be allowed to skip the basic level course.
Whittenbarger said he feels pretty confident the state will allow the exemption. He said a lot of what the middle school students learn will be covered in the high school’s basic course.
“I honestly believe [health sciences at CMS] is going to raise the knowledge base, the rigor and relevance,” Whittenbarger said. “I think it is a perfect piece to the puzzle to meet the state’s drive for common core and Mike Collier’s drive to raise the rigor at the middle school.”
Health sciences will take the place of Teen Living at the middle school. The course was the equivalent of CHS’ Family Consumer Science course. Low numbers and budget constraints led administrators to discontinue the course at the high school level. Whittenbarger said the middle school had no plans to discontinue their class. When the teacher announced she would be leaving, Whittenbarger said they made the decision to discontinue the program at the middle school level as well.
“It was like the perfect storm lined up for us to get this set up,” Whittenbarger said. “The state department was beside themselves and said they would help us do this program.”
Sixth-graders at CMS rotate to a new class in the fine arts cluster every 9 weeks. They shift between health science, engineering and communications. Seventh and eighth-graders have more freedom in which classes they will take as an elective.
Whittenbarger predicted the course would be taken by 75 to 80 percent of the middle school population.
He said the program will benefit students regardless of their future interest in the medical field.
“If a student sat in my class when I was an educator and at the end of the semester said, ‘Mr. Whit. I don’t like engineering. It is not for me,’ I did not take it personally,” Whittenbarger said. “I still felt I educated the student to make a conscious decision that this was not their career. I did not think it was a stab against me.”
He said taking the CTE classes offered at both schools give students an idea of what they would like to pursue following their high school graduations.