In Lily Apedaile’s biomedical science class at Frenchtown High School, students have been working for months to solve a mystery.
Apedaile, who is 29 and in her second year teaching at Frenchtown, began the class by setting up a fake crime scene where a fictional character, Sarah Lopez, died. Her students studied the scene and began theorizing about how she died.
For the rest of the year, students learn about Lopez’s health and begin to piece together potential reasons for her death.
“At the end of the year, they apply everything they’ve learned about the medical field, health, biology, to explain how she died,” Apedaile said. “So right now, they’re learning about the heart and heart disease, because the fictional character had heart disease.”
This is the first year the biomedical science course has been offered at Frenchtown. When Apedaile was hired last year, she said there was no health science program, yet many students were interested in going into the medical field and learning more about it.
On top of teaching science courses, Apedaile spent her first year at Frenchtown speaking with the administration about creating a health science program at the school. It’s expensive at first, so once she had the administration’s approval, she had to find funding for it, as the district couldn’t afford it all.
Community Medical Center paid for computers for all the students and for lab equipment for both the biomedical and biology classes Apedaile teaches. On a recent morning in her class, students took turns examining a sheep’s heart for a quiz about the cardiovascular system.
Other students sat on the floor, making posters about cholesterol and the effects high cholesterol has on the heart.
“It’s a lot of hands-on, real world learning,” Apedaile said. “So I don’t lecture a lot. The kids are kind of doing what they're doing, working on projects, working together, learning from each other.”
Apedaile, who’s originally from Helena, has a bachelor’s degree in science and biochemistry. Before teaching, she worked in a lab researching HIV vaccine development and treatment options.
With a grant from MJ Murdock Charitable Trust, Apedaile worked in a lab for the past two summers at the University of Montana. She then applied for a supplemental grant and was awarded $9,000 to pay for equipment to bring her research into the classroom, to get her students involved in real scientific research.
“The kids will work on doing antibiotic discovery, and hopefully they can find an organism that produces some sort of compound that could be developed by the U of M lab as an antibiotic treatment,” Apedaile said.
In addition to the scientific experience her students are getting, the course is dual-credit, and students who pass their end of year assessment will earn three college credits through UM Western.
Maddy Boller, one of Apedaile’s students who wants to go into the medical field, said the class has helped prepare her for college.
“I’ve learned a lot. Especially when we were learning about diabetes and certain diseases, we had to go so in depth and know exactly what was going on to completely understand it, so it was cool,” Boller said.
“I really like how she makes us figure out what’s going on. And then with all the cool different projects we do, with posters and videos and labs, it's really cool because they all apply to this one lady.”