Screams of agony filled Lexington’s Frederick Douglass High School parking lot on Thursday as students carried out a mock scenario in which a Cessna airplane attempted to make an emergency landing and crashed into a bus filled with passengers.
Health Science Academy students at Frederick Douglass were taking their final exam as a large-scale accident with multiple injuries was staged in the back parking lot of the school. Some of the 205 students posed as patients, others evaluated the patients for injuries and others made decisions on how they would treat patients who had sustained injuries.
“We’re giving them as real life scenario as we possibly can with emergency personnel from throughout the city,” said Heather Brinkman, the principal of Douglass’ health science academy.
Frederick Douglass is one of three Fayette County Public high schools included in the initiative called The Academies of Lexington, for the first time offering students a new kind of educational experience that connects what they’re learning in the classroom with the real world. Bryan Station and Tates Creek High Schools also have the academy model and officials at all three schools say they are transforming learning.
“We don’t want our students asking, ‘why do I have to learn this?'’” said Fayette County Public Schools Superintendent Manny Caulk. “By providing opportunities for career exploration we are giving students the opportunity to find what they are most passionate about and then tailor their high school experience to support the directions they choose for themselves.”
In the Health Science Academy at Douglass, students learn about various health fields, including how to be an emergency medical technician or a researcher, said Brinkman. They can learn biomedical sciences and next year a nursing program is starting. In the Academy, math and science courses are also geared toward the health professions.
Caroline Taylor, a sophomore, on Thursday at first posed as a screaming patient and then worked to evaluate the injuries of the mock patients. Caroline and fellow student Seth Spears, a senior, both want to be neurosurgeons.
“Everyone does such a good job to make it fun yet realistic in preparing you for the real world,” Caroline said of the Academy faculty..
"They try to train kids in certain aspects that will benefit them when they leave high school," said Seth. He’s been learning in the classroom about medical treatment and emergency procedures and on Thursday during the exercise he was gauging the severity of injuries in the mock patients.
“It’s the pinnacle of our academy process,” Frederick Douglass High School Principal Lester Diaz said about the mock exercise. “A true-project based hands-on learning experience; it brings school to life.. We are linking learning to their interest."
At all three schools that have the academies, "we want kids to be life ready, college ready, career ready," said Diaz. "Our focus is rigor in the classroom, relevance of the content and relationships with our community partners, our students and our families."
Douglass also has a freshman academy and a professional services academy that teaches business and pre-law and is having a mock murder mystery as an exam, Brinkman said.
The Academies of Lexington is a partnership between Fayette County public high schools, students, families, educators, businesses, and community partners.
Several community agencies and business partners helped with Thursday’s mock disaster event, including the Lexington Fire Department, Roberts Towing, Bluegrass Airport, Steve Morris with Eagles Eye Photography, Mediport LLC and Georgetown/Scott County EMS.
“I just want education to be as real as possible and I think sometimes that gets lost in the classroom,” said Brinkman.
Marty Mills, principal of Tates Creek High School, said this year his school has a freshman academy and next year will have an academy of design and engineering, an academy of business entrepreneurship and education, an academy of medical and emergency services, and international baccalaureate and information technology academies
“The freshman academy has done amazing things for our ninth graders. We’re seeing a decrease in discipline referrals but an increase in attendance and improvement in students' grades,” Mills said. Students are getting individual attention working with a core group of teachers, he said.
As part of the new way of thinking, freshmen get rewards as incentives to improve.
Bryan Station High School has a freshman academy, an information technology academy, a medical academy, an engineering, manufacturing and robotics academy and a leadership academy which teaches business, finance and culinary courses, said principal James McMillin.
Every academy has less than 300 kids, a principal and a counselor, giving students much more attention than in the past.
Some students are learning with virtual reality equipment, experiencing, for example, what it was like to be in a trench during World War I.
Every freshman visits a college and can choose a career path. Juniors visit businesses. Nurses and surgeons are working with anatomy and physiology students. Attendance is growing.
"We don't want kids ... feeling like they are coming to school and what they are learning isn't having an impact on where they want to go after they leave high school," McMillin said. "We are trying to think outside the box. We are having to break out of those old habits and get into this transformational model."