REVIEW: Project Lead the Way's Biomedical Science High School Courses
For nearly 10 years, Bri has focused on creating content to address the questions and concerns educators have about teaching classes, preparing students for certifications, and making the most of the AES curriculum system.
CTE health science programs are growing across the United States. As a result, there are more options for instructional materials than ever before.
A popular choice for many health science classrooms is Project Lead the Way’s (PLTW) Biomedical Science program.
PLTW's Biomedical Sciences be the perfect fit for some classes, but not quite right for others. In this blog, we’ll review the biomedical science courses to help you decide if they’re the right fit for you and your students.
But before we dive into the specifics of the courses, we’ll give a little background on Project Lead the Way!
What Is Project Lead the Way?
Project Lead the Way (PLTW) is a nonprofit organization that creates curriculum resources for a variety of subjects in grades PreK-12.
All of the content is developed and reviewed by a team of former educators and industry professionals, so you know it’s been checked out by a number of subject matter experts.
In addition, PLTW maps all of their curriculum to Next Generation Science Standards and various Common Core State Standards.
Overall, PLTW is dedicated to providing a relevant resource to help health science teachers prepare their students for the future.
Now that you have some background on PLTW, let’s dig into the specifics of the Biomedical Science program!
What Is the Project Lead the Way Biomedical Sciences Program?
The high school health science curriculum is referred to as the “PLTW Biomedical Science program.” The underlying theme across the program is “learning and growing by investigating medical mysteries.”
This program is made up of four year-long courses that relate to biomedical science careers:
- Principles of Biomedical Science
- Human Body Systems
- Medical Interventions
- Biomedical Innovations
Overall, each course includes resources for a variety of teaching strategies ranging from classroom activities to hands-on skills work with real medical equipment.
The courses are meant to be taught in this specific sequence, as each one builds on the knowledge students gained in the previous courses.
Here’s a brief overview of each course to give you an idea of what to expect:
Principles of Biomedical Science
The Principles of Biomedical Science course is your students’ introduction to the world of biomedical science. Throughout the course, your students will “investigate and solve a mysterious death” by using information and skills they learn in the lessons.
The Principles of Biomedical Science course is made up of 12 lessons across these four units:
- Medical Investigation
- Clinical Care
- Outbreaks and Emergencies
- Innovation, Inc.
Human Body Systems
The second course in the biomedical science sequence is Human Body Systems. This course goes more in-depth on how the human body’s systems work.
The Human Body Systems course is made up 19 lessons across these six units:
The Medical Interventions course teaches students how to prevent, diagnose, and treat diseases. Throughout the course, students will take on the role of various biomedical professionals.
The Medical Interventions course includes 15 lessons across these four units:
- How to Fight Infection
- How to Screen What Is in Your Genes
- How to Conquer Cancer
- How to Prevail When Organs Fail
The final course in the biomedical sequence is Biomedical Innovation. This course involves students using their knowledge and skills to take on “medical missions” and solve problems in health care.
The Biomedical Innovation course is made up of eight units, each listed as a “problem”:
- Design of an Effective Emergency Room
- Exploring Human Physiology
- Design of a Medical Innovation
- Investigating Environmental Health
- Combating a Public Health Issue
- Molecular Biology in Action
- Forensic Autopsy
- Independent Project
Now that you know the basics of the PLTW Biomedical Sciences program, let’s get into the pros and cons to really help you decide if it’s right for you.
Pros of the PLTW Biomedical Science Program
One of the biggest pluses for the program is the amount of resources available for the teacher. PLTW offers you with anything you could possibly need to run your classroom. This includes student materials, teacher materials, and the option to buy any lab or classroom equipment you don’t have yet.
Even before you decide to purchase the program, you have access to a lot of useful material in the form of course outlines, course resumes, and standards alignments.
Those resources alone can save you a ton of time with planning your syllabus and lessons!
Another pro for the PLTW Biomedical Sciences program is the fact that each course is for a full year. Because each course is a year-long, you and your students have a clear path from day one to their last PLTW End of Course (EoC) assessment.
Having that type of structure and expectation can really put your students at ease in an otherwise hectic life as a high schooler! It can also give them an exciting end goal, which is an extra way to keep your students engaged and motivated!
Cons of the PLTW Biomedical Science Program
The biggest downside of the PLTW Biomedical Sciences program is the amount of time it takes to get your classroom up and running once you decide to purchase.
First, you need to get your school and/or district registered with PLTW. If your district is already registered, this step is pretty quick. But if not, you’ll need to start from scratch and register your district.
Then you’ll need to be added as a teacher within PLTW and include any other health science instructors that will use the curriculum.
Once the teachers have been chosen, each one will need to register for and complete professional development. This starts with prerequisite courses to give you an introduction to PLTW. Then you’ll complete more in-depth training, either in person or online.
Finally, you’ll have to order equipment and supplies to get your classroom fully ready. PLTW makes the ordering process easy, but it will take some time to decide what to order. Then you wait for your supplies to arrive!
Each of those steps will take a good amount of your time and other people at your school will need to get involved. Talk about a lot of work up front!
Still, PLTW can be very much worth it if it’s the right fit for you and your students!
Who Should Use the PLTW Biomedical Science High School Program?
So, with all of that information swimming around in your head, you might still be wondering: Great, but is this program the right fit for MY classroom?
There are four specific points to consider when deciding if PLTW is right for you and your students:
- Grade level
- Course type
- Health science certifications
While PLTW has courses and programs for all ages, these biomedical science courses are specifically designed to be used in grades 9-12.
Additionally, these courses are designed with the potential of being taught in tandem with AP science courses. So even if you teach the proper grade level, your students may not be planning to take those AP courses.
The PLTW Biomedical Sciences program is designed to be used in sequence every year in high school. You certainly have the option to only purchase one course, but it won’t be the best experience for you or your students.
So if you’re teaching an introductory health science class, PLTW won’t be the best fit. But if your school wants to implement a four-year program focused on biomedical science, then this could be the curriculum for you!
Health Science Certifications
Many health science programs aim to have students sit for certification exams. One thing that PLTW lacks is alignment to NHA certifications.
If your program is focused on preparing students for certifications, this might not be the right resource for you.
Even if the first three points all match up with the needs and vision of your school and classroom, this last one could be what makes or breaks your decision.
Depending on the options you choose, the PLTW Biomedical Science program could have a hefty price tag. Things that affect the cost include:
- The number of courses you choose
- The number of students who will use the curriculum
- Annual program participation fee
- Professional development fee
- Equipment and supplies
PLTW has an interactive tool to help you figure out what it may cost to implement the program in your school.
Are the PLTW Biomedical Sciences the Right Fit for You?
Now that you have the information you need about the PLTW Biomedical Science program, you have two options of what to do next.
If it seems like the right fit, start talking to your colleagues and administrators about a potential implementation.
However, if not, you’ll need to find another high school health science curriculum. Since you were interested in PLTW, you probably want something more than just another health science textbook.
If you're looking for a new high school health science curriculum and don't know where to start, check out this article on where to find the best health science curriculum for CTE.
This article provides dozens of curriculum options to teach all kinds of health science courses, easily categorized so you can quickly find the best option to suit your needs.