Bluffton 7th-graders tackle diseases in science simulation

rheaton@beaufortgazette.comMay 3, 2012 

Bluffton Middle School student Kymber Wojcik listens to the heartbeat of "patient" Maria Borden as Krissy Johnson looks on during a mock medical examination on Thursday at the school. The seventh-graders were participating in a simulated clinic with students playing patients, describing their symptoms to other students acting as doctors, who tried to determine what their classmates were suffering from.

JAY KARR

A patient has a fever, chills and body aches.

Is it meningitis?

Or is it simply the flu?

That's what seventh-graders at Bluffton Middle School set out to discover this week as they pretended to be both doctors and patients in a simulated health clinic.

Teams of "doctors" pored over their notes on 38 different diseases, while their classmates described the symptoms.

They tried to keep their giggles to a minimum as they asked their classmates personal questions to diagnose them. When a group suspected one patient might have mononucleosis, she was asked, "Have you been kissing anyone?" Mono, they had learned, could be spread through kissing or drinking after someone.

The seventh-grader smirked and said, "No!"

The classmate playing her father acted horrified. But when her "dad" wasn't looking, she whispered to her doctors that she had.

"Mono!" the medical team proclaimed and prescribed lots of rest.

That process -- asking questions, treating diseases and reviewing the details of illnesses again and again as they rifled through their notes -- is what science teacher Lois Lewis had in mind when she designed the simulation, which she started using last school year.

According to state academic standards, seventh-graders should be able to explain the effects of various diseases on the body.

Rather than read the details in a book and regurgitate facts on a test, Lewis thought the students would learn more through the simulation.

"It gets them involved in learning," she said. "Their learning is not just superficial. It's deeper."

Lewis said she saw positive results last year. She said her students aced questions about diseases on the Palmetto Assessment of State Standards test.

"They came out on top of all middle schools in the district on the human body and diseases," she said. This year's students will take the PASS exam next week, and Lewis hopes for similar results.

Students said they were learning more through the simulation.

"When you experience it, you're way more into it," Charlie Hancock said. "It helps get it into your brain more than just memorizing it would."

And it's more fun than reading a textbook.

"They're learning in spite of themselves," Lewis said.

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