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Sage Canyon students learn medical detective work

Top photo: After research and discussion about the circulatory system, fifth graders Isaiah Barrett (left) and Matt Strong (center)share their findings about how the heart oxygenates blood with their teacher Carolynn Barthelemy.


Bottom photo: Logan Byers, a fifth grader at Sage Canyon Elementary, reviews the circulatory system with his teacher Carolynn Barthelemy. Students are learning about human biology through an innovative program which allows them to meet with real-life patients.

Article and photos by Lisa Crockett

Human biology is a complicated topic.  Couple that with human behavior, and you’ve got an even more complex situation.  Fifth grade students at Sage Canyon Elementary school in Castle Rock are excited to learn more about both subjects.  Last month, the ten and eleven year-olds set out on a journey to diagnose actual patients as part of a science unit titled “Doctor, Doctor, give me the news!”

“We want things at school to be as ‘real life’ as possible,” said fifth grade teacher Carolynn Barthelemy, who taught the unit dressed in medical scrubs with a stethoscope around her neck. “In this unit, we learn about the systems of the body by working to answer the question, ‘How can we diagnose a sick patient’?”

Two patients, who have been given the names “Patient A” and “Patient B”, are school-aged kids with serious medical conditions. Because of their health challenges, they attend the Morgridge Academy, a school housed on the campus of National Jewish Hospital, founded to serve the needs of chronically ill students.  Patients A and B met with students from Sage Canyon via Skype, answering questions about their health condition to provide clues to help the budding diagnosticians.

“The kids asked some general questions about their lives and their medical history,” said Barthelemy. “They asked about their symptoms and gathered information about the patients.”

At the end of the six-week unit, which includes instruction about all the body’s systems, students will present their findings to a panel of volunteers comprised of mostly medical professionals in the community.  The information they use is gathered from a variety of sources including textbooks and websites like WebMD and RightDiagnosis.

“Once the kids determine what the diagnosis is, they will also think about recommendations for treatment options and next steps,” said Barthelemy. “They know that these students are actually suffering from a serious condition, and they are inspired to find a cure.”

After the diagnoses are evaluated and discussed, students will take a field trip to visit the Morgridge Academy in Denver to meet Patient A and Patient B to learn if their findings were correct.

“The notion of empathy is so important in something like this,” said Barthelemy.  “These are real people, really living this, and the kids are serious about it.”



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