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WCHS students participate in interactive autopsy
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Students in WCHS teacher Judy Thomas’ forensic science class took advantage of the school’s distance learning equipment to participate in an interactive virtual autopsy.
This is the fourth such class given since 2009 when the school obtained the equipment through a $91,712 Perkins Reserve Grant written by Career and Technical Education director Tracy Risinger. The school had one on April 1, 2010, two on Oct. 21, 2010, and the one held Monday at WCHS.
The equipment, which consists of flat-panel monitors, microphones and video cameras, plus the software to operate the interactive video conferences, have allowed the school to present a total of 20 such programs on a wide range of subjects including careers in law, HIV/ AIDS, bullying, money and the dangers of debt and the anatomy of the human brain.
The system has also been used to provide a virtual visit with both Santa and Mrs. Claus for younger students.
Risinger says she got idea from a visit to another local educational facility which participated in distance learning.
“I had gone to Motlow for a meeting and saw they had this capability,” Risinger said. “In talking to Melody (Motlow McMinnville campus director Melody Edmonds) and being out there at the meeting, I was just amazed at the opportunities. So I got to thinking if there’s any way possible I want to bring this to Warren County High School if possible.”
Risinger found out about the Perkins Reserve Grant and soon WCHS was holding interactive video conferences with people from around the country.
Not only is there a permanent lab at the high school, Risinger is also capable of taking the show on the road, so to speak.
“We have a mobile cart we can take around to any classroom in Warren County High School,” Risinger said. “All you have to have is electricity and an Internet connection and you can take the mobile lab to any classroom and have the same capability.”
The virtual autopsy is part of the Adventures in Medicine & Science Program of Saint Louis University and was conducted by Ray Vollmer. The students observe a specially prepared cadaver of an individual who had donated his body to be utilized for educational purposes.
Since the technology is interactive, Vollmer was able to see and hear the students as he held the class. He was able to both ask questions of, and hear questions from, the students in attendance.
Representatives from some other school systems, including White and Coffee counties, attended the class to get an idea of how the equipment works.
Judy Guth, a teacher from White County, said that school system is considering similar technology and she wanted a chance to get a first-hand look at it in action.
“The technology is good, I like it,” Guth said. “This means we can view things, like autopsies, that the students normally can’t because we can’t go to the coroner’s office. They wouldn’t let us in.”
The unusual nature of this learning tool was not lost of the students of Thomas’ class, like Austin Green and Austin Panter.
“This was very interesting,” said Green. “It’s important to do an autopsy so you can learn how the people died. I learned a lot from this.”
Panter said it was both educational and entertaining.
“It was pretty cool,” Panter said. “I liked it.”
Using the interactive capabilities of the system, the Standard was able to interview Vollmer at the university in St. Louis and get his take on the technology.
“When we first started this six or seven years ago I wasn’t really convinced it was all that important,” Vollmer said. “Because I didn’t know the things we were doing here couldn’t be found anywhere else. I’m amazed at the lack of access the students have to look at a body like this. I’m amazed at the number of places we can go to and show these students something they can’t see anywhere else.
“We’ve done this with people from all over the U.S., Canada and we’ve even got people in Europe now that want to be hooked into this,” Vollmer said. “I’ve found a lot of people don’t have access to certain lessons, and not just this, it might be a lot of other subjects too. Video conferencing is the only way these students are going to have access to, one, this type of lesson, and two, if just one or two students in this class today said ‘That is the coolest thing.’ That might be something for them to go forward with when they get into college as a career choice.”
Risinger says she is proud of the program and thanks everyone involved in making it a success and the school system administration for its support.
“This distance learning lab has provided numerous opportunities for our students at Warren County High School,” Risinger said. “To be able to see things they might otherwise never get to see without using this virtual environment.”