K-State Olathe helps develop Animal Health 21st Century Program

July 13, 2010

OLATHE, Kan. - It all started when K-State Olathe administrators took a tour of Olathe schools.

"A question came from one of the students of how she could do research in animal health but not be her perception of the classic veterinarian in a clinical practice– basically do that research without being a clinician. Opening up such possibilities for students is a particular goal of K-State Olathe," said Teresa Woods, coordinator of the partnership between K-State Olathe and the Olathe School District (OSD).

As a function of the memorandum of understanding between K-State Olathe and the City of Olathe, the two organizations collaborated to create another strand of Olathe North's Life Sciences 21st Century Program. The goal of this program is to allow students to see that working with animals does not necessarily mean a person is a vet; students could work in public health, epidemiology, pathology, pharmaceuticals, wildlife conservation, and more.

"There's a wide range of careers they can pursue, and that's part of our motive, to give them an understanding of those," Woods said.

Woods explains that this program is being experimented with in Olathe first because Olathe gave K-State the land for the new campus. However, K-State Olathe does have a commitment to work with all the Johnson County schools – and they plan to do just that, in time.

"What we're doing is definitely a pilot project that will be integrated as much as other districts want," Woods said. "We don't want to impose anything on them, but as much as they want we will be working with the other districts as we learn what we're doing here."

Some of the custom components of the animal health program include an introduction to lab techniques; an online animal health program through Metropolitan Community College; a summer animal health camp; a summer field study camp; a non-credit online K-State course and an opportunity to work with K-State Olathe researchers on a senior project.

Once it is implemented in fall 2010, the introduction to lab techniques course will be taken by all freshmen in the Geosciences and Life Sciences 21st Century Programs. A semester course without a textbook, it is designed to be a hands-on class that gives a broad overview of all the different elements of science. Students who take it will get a feel for research, possible careers and lab skills.

The big ideas guiding Intro to Lab Techniques are understanding the nature of science; developing skill in terms of lab work, equipment, and data recording and processing; reading scientific papers; and gaining exposure to career and role models.

The curricula for the online courses are currently being developed.

The same time commitment as the field research camp, the animal health introductory camp gave students hands-on experience with animals for four half-days. Participants, who were entering ninth grade, observed and learned to handle animals brought in by student naturalist classes. The group also took a field trip to the Mahaffie Farmstead to work with large animals and tour veterinary clinics.

In the future, the program will have two summer animal health introductory camps – one session for a middle school recruiting and one for incoming freshman and sophomores. The summer field research camp will be available for incoming juniors, and a summer online K-State course for incoming seniors will function as a preparatory course in how to succeed with online courses. Lastly, seniors will take an online animal health K-State course during the school year.

- By Ashley Dunkak -