Project Lead the Way Curriculum Saves Student’s Life

Body Systems Diagnostic Challenge: Inspiring Problem Solvers Who Make a Difference

This story is about Elaine Scott and how 7th grade science was instrumental in saving her life.

Elaine started 7th grade at Northwood in the fall of 2015. Like many middle school students she was growing like a weed, always hungry and often tired. These characteristics, along with a busy schedule and Scandinavian heritage seemed to explain her thin frame and pale skin. As the year progressed Elaine expressed occasional concern about her hunger and tiredness but, as her mother Heidi explains, “We never had a 13-year old before so we assumed it was all part of growing up.”

Students learn about human body systems in 7th grade science. A part of this body systems unit is the Diagnostic Challenge. Using medical analysis, students in “physician” teams look at patient symptoms and make diagnoses based on what they have learned about each body system and key diseases.

Last March during this project-based Diagnostic Challenge, Elaine came home and shared what she was discovering about diabetes. She told her parents, “It’s weird . . . every symptom we are learning about is something I’m experiencing.” To alleviate her concerns, they approached a neighbor whose daughter has Type 1 diabetes and asked to test Elaine’s blood. Fasting blood sugar should be less than 100 . . . Elaine’s was 375! They immediately headed to Sacred Heart Emergency where a diagnosis of Type 1 diabetes was confirmed. Elaine’s doctor informed the family she had most likely been experiencing blood sugar levels in the very high 600-700 range for several weeks – scary! Waiting even another day may have led to Elaine suffering a coma or worse.

Reflecting on this past year Elaine says, “It was actually school that really saved me from a coma and possibly even dying. I had unknowingly been getting sicker and sicker. Thank goodness I paid attention to the unit on diabetes.”

In a letter to the 7th grade science teachers, Elaine’s parents Heidi and Kelly expressed sincere appreciation stating, “Thank you for teaching our daughter and all her peers. Thank you for engaging them in meaningful and compelling lessons that keep their attention. We can’t imagine what might have happened had Elaine not self-diagnosed when she did.”

When Elaine grows up she wants to be a pediatric endocrinologist helping other young people deal with Type 1 diabetes. “That’s the goal,” says science teacher Renee Demand, “to show students real world context for the content being taught so they can be team-based problem solvers who make a difference in our world and community.” 


Story taken from: Mead Matters, written by Jolene Andres


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