Lifestyle

Arlington High School to offer biotechnology class this fall

ARLINGTON — While unemployment remains high in Snohomish County, school officials are hoping that a new class at Arlington High School this fall can feed students into a high-demand field — biotechnology.

“The biomedical field is just taking off in Snohomish County,” said Brett Sarver, high school career and technical education director. “It’s a science but it’s also one of the hottest growing careers in the county.”

Sarver and human genetics instructor Michele Wolski recently recommended to the Arlington School Board that the high school modify the school’s current human genetics course into a biotechnology course.

The year-long class, which was approved by the Board Jan. 25, will give students a chance to learn about DNA structure and sequencing, protein analysis and microbiology, said Wolski, who will teach the course.

Wolski has taught the school’s human genetics course for a number of years, and said that she’s always devoted some time in her curriculum for biotechnology.

Now, she’ll be able to go into more depth with the field, she said.

“It’s not technically a totally new class, but we’re changing the focus to the biotech area,” she said. “We’re going to focus a little bit on the applications of science and I’m hoping we get a mixture of students in it.”

Wolski said the course will give students more time to spend doing lab work. Since the class will be one year instead of one semester, she said she’ll have more time to go into specifics about biotechnology instead of simply spending a short period of time on it.

“We decided to go in this direction because it’s definitely a career field,” Wolski said. “I think it’s more important for us to know about that field. Students who go further in this will have more lab skills and we’ll use more equipment.”

The hybrid class will allow students to receive science and CTE credit — meaning students who have already taken the maximum number of science courses can still receive high school credit.

“That was the driving force for me to get this under the CTE requirement,” Wolski said.

According to Wolski’s course description, Snohomish County is home to nearly 22 percent of all Washington state biotechnology and biomedical companies and 24 percent of all life science employees.

Sarver said the idea for the modified course started about 18 months ago when Wolski and he went to the University of Washington and participated in a biotechnology advisory group. From there, Sarver said that they realized how much a biotechnology course would benefit Arlington students.

The high school partnered with Glacier Peak High School in Snohomish to develop its curriculum, Sarver said.

“All the pieces starting coming together from there,” he said.

Approximately 24 students will be selected for the fall biotechnology class.

To prepare for the new class, Wolski said she was taking a protein modeling workshop this summer.

“We have a 3-D printer, so students will be learning about the structure of proteins,” she said. “It’s just an amazing field.”

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