Should you find yourself stranded on a desert island choking on a coconut, or lost deep in the woods with a gash in your leg, you’d better hope that you’re with Harlem Academy students.
“Our human biology curriculum pushes them far beyond a typical middle school course with engagement around anatomy and physiology,” says science teacher Meredith Philbin. “Most students don’t see this until high school or college.”
A semester-long emergency medicine unit brings the terminology to life and provides a real-world application. Students study protocols for city and wilderness environments and practice executing them in weekly rescue scenarios.
“Last week, we learned how to treat a bloody wound,” says Caden, an eighth grader. “Clean it and apply direct pressure first. Elevate the wound and keep the pressure as you apply a bandage. Then, only if it really keeps bleeding, apply a tourniquet as a last resort.” Caden can also tell you when and how to use CPR, what to do if someone is in shock, and how to splint a fracture.
“The unit engages each student differently, drawing out their strengths and interests,” says Ms. Philbin. “The kids who are into acting love playing the patient. The leaders like to take charge. We also have a lot of students attending wilderness camps in the summer, so they become more confident about navigating that world.”
This program was first developed by middle school science teacher Allison Duarte in 2012. “A key goal has been to bring doctors and scientists into our classroom to show students potential role models,” says Ms. Duarte. “You never know when a great lesson might spark a career.”
“This is what happens when you make room for innovation,” says Head of School Vinny Dotoli. “If a teacher is excited to try something not already in the curriculum, we always take a look. We’re very intentional, asking ourselves how it will move the mission forward and connect to our educational philosophy, particularly related to skill development. If the answers are there, we run a pilot, track performance, and build on what we learn. It’s a big part of what makes Harlem Academy such an exciting place to teach and learn.”
Special thanks to the Harry Winston Hope Foundation, lead sponsor of Harlem Academy’s middle school science program.
Thank you to Con Edison for their ongoing support of our students' science and technology education.