FLEMINGTON, NJ - In 2020, Hunterdon Central Regional School District is placing the spotlight on its magnet program initiative, as unique aspects of the educational program strengthen and supplement HCRHS’ commitment to powerful learning.

With economic indications for STEM career subjects being one of the latest innovations to come into laser focus for Central’s administration, one of the newest plans is for a biomedical academy offering hands-on laboratory, medical study and research experiences.

Supervisor of science Matthew Hall is working with teachers to develop a biomedical academy to introduce students to more 100 career paths and professions in biomedical sciences. In the fall (to start the 2020-2021 school year), Central plans to offer a new five-credit course, “Introduction to the Biomedical Sciences,” as the first in its biomedical academy.

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In the course, according to the district website, concepts of biology, human physiology and medicine relating to a medical case study of a fictitious person will be investigated during the year.

Hunterdon Central also set its 2020-2021 magnet programs for robotics, computer science, architectural design and global citizenship.

Superintendent Jeffrey Moore said magnet programs will enable all students to ignite passions and have choices within HCRHS’ educational program “in subjects offered to allow chances for students to take deep dives into their best interests and developing skills, potentially as career preparation.”

In addition, he said, robotics and architectural design also serve as career and technical education (CTE) programs of study.

To better outfit district facilities for biomedical and STEM learning in coming years, the school board and administration spoke recently about being open to visiting some of the most innovative, modern labs in schools across the state.

Moore said he could visit North Hunterdon High School and see the cutting edge program developed there, with updated science labs complete with screens, an autopsy table with computer monitors and innovative study settings.

Beginning in the summer of 2021, the district plans on looking more closely at upgrades to its labs, equipment and functional science spaces. Moore said he envisions alignment for biomedical science with the move to build innovation into facilities, beginning with work on the Ilibrary in the coming summer.

“Down the road you’ll see our 21st century classroom and lab upgrades,” he said. “We are hoping to build that network of spaces on campus to support the spread of innovation. Some of the science lab renovations we’ve done over the past couple of years have been improving on old cabinets, things like that.”

When I arrived (July 2017). HCRHS was finishing some science lab innovations; there are brand new, beautiful labs, but we’re still looking to instruction that aligns with next-generation science standards,” he added. “We must offer functional space to support that. Once we have good capacity on those standards from staff, I think we will have better marching orders on what they need in these rooms."

Director of curriculum and instruction Jessica Cangelosi-Hade said that inside magnet classrooms secondary-level academic work goes on.

“But it is in the context of what students are pursuing, and it may become very individualized depending on what a student would like to pursue,” she said.

Cangelosi-Hade added that magnet classrooms are “minds-on” and exciting to students as they take initial steps to explore careers and college majors.

“With magnet courses, instead of an HCRHS student taking separate electives they take cohesive coursework throughout high school years, with many courses linked to college credits or industry-recognized credentials,” she said. “We also link students to internships and structured learning experiences so they have opportunities to work with professionals while they’re still in high school.”

In HCRHS’ biomedical academy, projects and course activities will introduce students to the U.S. healthcare system on top of fundamentals in biology, medicine, public health issues and research. Moore said biomedical coursework can serve as leading examples of Central’s “capstone experience,” building on intensive training in a subject/career area from the ninth through 12th grades.

Working alongside professionals provides apprenticeship and mentee experiences, Moore said. He pointed out that college credits for students in magnet courses translates to colleges recognizing HCRHS’ studies and activities as college-level work.

Cangelosi-Hade said the experiential programs assist self-discovery and career planning.

“A lot of students think they want to become a doctor, maybe a pediatrician, but they have not explored professions out there from pharmacology to physical therapy, they don’t know what is out there,” she said. “This serves as a huge benefit to being in a biomedical academy. The idea of a capstone is to take the knowledge and skills built as a base and apply them to a project or an opportunity that you will benefit and learn from. For biomedical sciences, that may be something like volunteering or interning in a hospital or pursuing an EMT credential. Within this, a student can notice a problem and design a solution based upon their three- to four-years of high school.”

Educational leaders continue a STEM emphasis as career fields and opportunities keep evolving and increasing, including in science education as the district seeks more science instructors. Moore said a pipeline from colleges to HCRHS and potentially student-teacher initiatives with The College of New Jersey will be explored. However the Global Citizenship program, according to Moore, allows “more humanities-oriented students a deep-dive into a topic more relatable and interesting to them, and it sets them up to make strong and important contributions after high school.”

“It is important to me and all faculty of HCRHS to try to offer students as many programs as we can to appeal to a broad range of interests,” he added.