Dressed to impress and awaiting their interviews, sits students from Washougal High School’s Intro the Medical Careers and Terminology class. Why might you ask? Let’s start at the beginning when Mel Horton, Washougal High School new CTE Health Sciences Teacher asked herself, ‘how do I create meaning and creative approaches to something like learning human body systems while incorporating essential 21st Century skills?’ Then the idea hit her…What better than to have students ‘assume’ the role of the system, then apply for a job! And the project evolved from there.
Students began by researching the system of their choice to understand how its highly specialized organs worked together to execute very specific functions. They use that research to write a cover letter, resume and prepare for a specific job interview at the fictional Panther Patient Care Service (PPCS) health care company. The jobs and corresponding body systems were Transportation – cardiovascular and digestive systems; Event Coordinator – female reproductive and muscular systems; Facility Security -lymphatic and integumentary systems; Custodial – digestive and respiratory systems; and Manager – nervous and endocrine systems.
“The learning standard just required students to describe the basic structure and function of each body system,” Horton explained. “Since there was not a lot of depth and rigor to the assignment, I thought this would be a good project to get them thinking about how their system overcomes challenges as well as interacts with other systems to help the body function. When class learning standards are simple, I try to take them to the next level with a challenging project where students can dig in.”
Horton even created an extensive and professionally appearing website for PPCS that offered detailed job descriptions including work summaries, yearly pay and essential functions. The site also shared details about the background, mission and goals of the make-believe business, so the students could demonstrate understanding of the company culture for an effective and professional cover letter and interview.
“I have a lot of juniors and seniors, applying for college and new jobs, so I thought providing some guidance in these areas would help hook and engage them,” said Horton. “CTE courses have a large focus on 21st century skills, including professionalism skills. What students learn in class will help them prepare for their future careers, but if students are unable to construct strong resumes and cover letters, or don’t have the skills to interview effectively, they will struggle getting hired. I liked the balance between content and applicable professional skills this project focused on.”
WHS Senior Isabella Juhl chose the lymphatic system for her project because it was a system that she did not know much about. The PPCS job she applied for was Facility Security. In her cover letter, written as the Lymphatic system, she listed accomplishments such as successfully responding to painful and swollen lymph nodes by producing more white blood cells and releasing them to fight the infection. Her resume described “job experience” as Volunteer Firefighter that transported and maintained fluids and Bodyguard for extensive experience in strategies of defense against intruders to the body. “I had to fully research the system and understand its functions and its strengths and weaknesses,” she said. “It helped me be specific about why my system was the best for the job in my cover letter and resume so I could accurately answer questions in my interview.”
WHS and district staff volunteered to conduct the interviews. Kathy Scobba, WSD Career Specialist & Work Site Learning Coordinator interviewed Juhl for the security position. “She did great!” Scobba remarked. “Isabella had a very attractive resume, a well-written cover letter, and she was very specific in her interview as to how her system functions and why it is best for the job.”
“I thought the assignment was a fun and interactive project for doing research and learning new skills,” said Juhl. She plans to apply to Klamath Falls Community College and study pre-veterinary course work.
The project concluded with one student being hired for each of the five positions. Those students received a congratulations letter, 100 Grand (candy bar) signing bonus, and a little welcome to the company gift. However, all students gained knowledge and life skills. And Juhl, by the way, was hired to lead Facility Security!
“I was actually surprised by how valuable the students found it,” admits Horton “Even students that really struggled with the project still expressed that they learned a lot of helpful skills and tools. Students were incredibly self-reflective, and I heard things such as, ‘Wow, they gave me such helpful feedback in the interview, and I can’t wait for a real interview so I can try it again.’ and ‘I learn so many things in this class that I can actually use in my life.’ Hearing the students reflect on how much they learned, and how they will apply it to their life, without any prompting was awesome!”
Panther Patient Care Services Jobs
Patient Care Team Manager – nervous and endocrine systems
Oversee our dedicated physicians and care team to ensure treatment efficacy.
Custodian – digestive and respiratory systems
Be an integral part in making sure our facilities stay clean and sterile.
Facility Security – lymphatic and integumentary systems
Secure the premises and personnel to ensure the safety of everyone at PPCS.
Event Director – female reproductive and muscular systems
Organize and host patient and staff events to build community and promote health.
Transportation Specialist – Cardiovascular and digestive systems
Manage the complex network of supply deliveries and patient transportation needs.