Hands-on learning for high school students


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By Jan Jarvis

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Ian Massey slipped on purple gloves and grasped a human lung without hesitation.

“It feels kind a rubbery,” said Ian, 14. “You can push on it anywhere and it bounces back.”

The anatomy lesson is one of the many reasons that students attending the Texas Academy of Biomedical Sciences Summer Bridge Program find the experience so inspiring. Every year, the program introduces 100 incoming high school students to hands-on learning experiences they are not likely to forget.

A visit to the anatomy lab left a few students covering their eyes or hiding under their hoodies, but most did not hesitate to hold lungs and livers while asking plenty of questions.

For Diem Kimka, 14, the program is all about discovering interesting facts about how organs work and preparing her to be a biologist.

“I know what the whole body looks like,” she said. “But I want to learn so much more about it.”

TABS students can earn dual credit as they prepare for higher education in the health sciences. The program is a collaboration among UNTHSC, the Fort Worth Independent School District, the University of North Texas and Tarrant County College.

In the summer program, students learn how to scrub and gown for surgery, listen to heart sounds and what they mean, and hear presentations from graduate students on what it is like to be in medical or research graduate programs, said Cara Fisher, coordinator for the TABS Summer Bridge Program.

“Our hope is that one of the activities these students participate in sparks their imagination and makes them say “I want to learn more about that!’” said Fisher, Instructor and Anatomist at the Health Science Center. “I would be happy to teach any one of them if they were accepted here at UNTHSC.”

Faculty members provide instruction and laboratory experiences while UNTHSC students assisted as role models in health professions. For five years, JP Morgan Chase Foundation has funded the summer program.

The students top off their week of learning with a White Coat Ceremony.

A lot of the students in the TABS program have expressed an interest in science. This program is a way to expose them to the opportunities out there, said Rustin Reeves, PhD, Professor and Director for the Center for Anatomical Sciences.

“This opens their eyes to a career in research or medicine,” Dr. Reeves said. “We hope that one day they will become researchers and physicians.”

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