Olathe West 21st Century Academies Offer Hands-On Opportunities


Dahlia Vang

Green tech students work collaboratively on a project.

Dahlia Vang, Staff Writer

Olathe Public Schools offers a variety of 21st Century Academies to students district-wide. All five Olathe high schools host unique academies; these range from Animal Health, E-Communications, to Future Educators, and more.  

Two of the newest academies, Public Safety and Green Tech are hosted at Olathe West High School. All of the academies are learning different curriculum and have different projects in the works, so what exactly do they have in store? 

The Public Safety Academy is currently working on “creating a recruiting tool for different law enforcement agencies” said Jeff Van Dyke, facilitator of the 21st Century Academy, Public Safety. 

Students will be creating a “recruiting tool” for a certain law enforcement agency and seeing what it truly takes to be part of that agency. With these new projects at hand, students are enjoying the teamwork and having a feel for careers in law enforcement. 

“I enjoy all of it, but the thing I enjoy the most is the teamwork and leadership classes that we do,” said sophomore Luke Gwartney.  

Many students enjoyed their field trip to the Johnson County Sherriff’s Department and the Olathe Police Department Headquarters. 

“I love the field trips. It shows what people do and how they work in their environment, and what they get to do on a daily basis,” said freshmen Alyssa Borland.  

With students working on law enforcement lessons this semester, there will be future projects in forensic science. 

“We will have forensic science, which will be a crime scene investigation type science class, and a Spanish for first responders class,” said Van Dyke.  

In the next school year, students will be introduced to learning digital scene photography and working with several hands-on equipments. Public Safety has many hands-on equipments that have arrived at Olathe West, and many are still on their way. 

They have pieces of equipment such as DNA analysis machines for forensic science, ladders for fire rescue, fire hoses, and different medical equipment.  

“This is a hands-on academy, so the kids will be learning about skills in a book, then we will go do it, and apply it in the real-world,” said Van Dyke.  

While Public Safety has been starting out as a hands-on academy, Green Tech has begun working on reducing their ecological footprint. 

“We will be working in the first semester to reduce our personal ecological footprint,” said Green Tech academy facilitator Trinda Wheeler.  

In the academy, each Green Tech class will be doing a Design for Change Challenge. This allows students to focus on creating a long-lasting solution to reduce the impact of the ecological footprint for our school or the community.  

One project that a Green Tech class plans to complete involves Lake Olathe. 

“We are trying to make the water treatment better. We haven’t come up with a concept for it yet,” said freshmen Madison Quarles.  

While they haven’t found the solution yet, the problem is definitely there.

“We found areas that have high levels of pollution and what they were going to do down there,” said freshmen Jackson Milford.  

The class working on this project recently went on a field trip to Lake Olathe.  

“We got to explore the needs of the local Lake Olathe ecosystems,” said freshman Carolyn Fairchild.

With the goal of improving the water quality, Green Tech offers a wide variety of equipment. 

Just like Public Safety, Green Tech has many hands-on equipments for their students to use. Many of the equipment range from diesel engines and solar panels to a 3D printer and a CNC router.  

As this is the first year, “students, especially in this inaugural class, are going to get to be helping me figure out how it all works,” said Wheeler.  

With this new technology being introduced to Green Tech students, many of the students are feeling passionate. 

“I have a strong passion for preserving the environment, and the open house was very influential,” said Fairchild. 

Many of the students in this academy hope to pursue a career in environmental studies or working with creating inventions to improve the environment. 

Although the Public Safety and Green Tech Academy are different in many ways, the concept of what is being taught all gives students a hands-on experience. Both academies allow students to expand their knowledge of their career field and have the chance to apply what they have been learning into real-world scenarios.