Bradley Central High School unveiled its newest addition — a virtual dissection table — at an open house Monday night.
The $70,000 digital table, made by Anatomage, allows students in health and science courses to manipulate virtual human cadavers.
"This is a big benefit for our students," said Bradley Central High health science teacher Cindy Leslie. "The neat things are these are real bodies with their own stories to tell."
Students in classes such as biology, anatomy, health science and other courses that are part of the school's certified nursing assistant, agricultural science and first responder programs are able to use the tables during labs. They can view the bodies in myriad ways — through cross cuts, by isolating different systems of the body such as the nerves or the circulatory systems and even explore case studies of different diseases or conditions already available.
"We can identify different organs, bones, muscles, nerve systems," said Drew German, a Bradley Central High teacher. "It's sometimes hard for our kids to grasp a concept like how a certain muscle runs from one place to here it's a lot easier to do it on the table because you can pull up the whole systems."
In 2014, Bradley County Schools was awarded a $4.5 million federal grant to coordinate education and work and career opportunities. The Youth Career Connect Grant, which was awarded to 27 school districts nationwide, made it possible for the district to purchase two Anatomage tables — one for Bradley Central High and one for Walker Valley High.
The district already has plans for the tables, which were received in November 2017, including using them as a community resource, said Brittany Cannon, work-based learning coordinator for the district. Local nurses, physicians and even Tennova Healthcare representatives were invited to Monday's open house to see the tables in action.
"It is such a superb tool," said Dr. William Johnson, a retired Tennova general surgeon who along with other community members was invited onstage Monday to interact with the table. "There are certain parts of anatomy that [are] really difficult to teach and learn and this gets them in depth."
Typically, high schools don't often have access to equipment like this — the University of Tennessee has an Anatomage table at the UT Health Science Center and Vanderbilt University has one.
The school district hopes to reach out to local colleges and universities such as Cleveland State and Chattanooga State and Lee University students who can work alongside Bradley County's high school students.
"There's endless possibilities to create these collaborative, sustainable environments," Cannon said.
Bradley Central High has more than a dozen career and technical programs, and many of the students in those programs have already been able to use the innovation table.
"It's really awesome," said Mattie Jones, a senior at Bradley Central who also registered her certified nursing assistant license through the school's program. "Usually, we just have worksheets and mannequins and skeletons, but sometimes it's easier to see it or you can see more when it is real."
Jones plans on completing the first responder program at Bradley Central and continuing her education to be an EMT at Cleveland State.
"I'm learning just as much as they do," German said. "I love lab days with these things, because I get to learn, too."
The grant the district received encouraged expanding career and technical programs, specifically in health care, information technologies and advanced manufacturing, according to Cannon.
The district is also working on opening its Partners in Education Center that will house a STEM innovation hub, bringing some of those resources under one roof.
"It's such a wonderful teaching tool," said District 1 school board member Nancy Casson. "The fact that they can work on it in the classroom is amazing."
Contact staff writer Meghan Mangrum at email@example.com or 423-757-6592. Follow her on Twitter @memangrum.