Spokane’s smallest public high school has the attention of Washington’s top official.
Gov. Jay Inslee, with his wife, Trudi, by his side, popped into North Central High School’s class Thursday where the focus is teaching students to think critically. He visited Randy James’ classroom where teenage scientists make doctorate-level discoveries and toured the new building that will house the high school’s Institute of Science and Technology program.
“The ambition of this school is what’s most impressive,” Inslee said. Additionally, “I really believe Spokane is going to become a bio-med hub,” starting with this high school and continuing with what’s happening on Washington State University Spokane’s campus.
Lucas Arnold, 17, explained his science project to Inslee as they stood over a 50,000-year-old mammoth bone and a chart about what he’s learned so far.
“It’s hard to extract DNA from the bone because so much of it has turned to fossil,” Arnold explained. Once the extraction is successful, “we’ll be able to compare it to other DNA to find out what kind of mammoth bone we have.”
The machine capable of sequencing DNA sat just a few feet away.
Arnold is a student at the Institute of Science and Technology, which combines traditional science courses with a multiyear immersion in molecular biology. James, the teacher who created the program, led Inslee around the building, where James will teach science classes starting next year.
“This is a dream come true,” James told Inslee. “It’s pretty remarkable the district made the bold decision to do this.”
After the building tour, Inslee stepped into Kelly Stromberg’s class to talk with students about AP Cambridge – a specialty course designed to develop independent research and collaborative teamwork skills. Last year, North Central was one of 15 schools in the world to pilot the course, and 100 percent of the students passed the first AP exam.
The course will be taught in all five of Spokane Public Schools’ high schools next year and only one other school in the state of Washington.