SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WCIA) — Four schools in the Springfield Public School District will be able to expand their healthcare education programs soon thanks to a grant from the Springfield Memorial Foundation.

The grant will expand a hands-on STEM learning program, Project lead the Way, into Franklin, Grant and Washington Middle Schools. Previously available at only Jefferson Middle School, this program uses curriculum focused on student career pathways in computer science, engineering and biomedical/health sciences.

“PLTW students tend to be better prepared for post-secondary studies and are more likely to consider careers as health care providers, scientists, technology experts and engineers than their non-PLTW peers,” said Lance Thurman, executive director for secondary programs and planning for District 186. “By expanding these innovative programs, we are setting up students for success in careers that are in high demand locally. That, ultimately, helps our community thrive.”

In addition, the grant will provide a 3D anatomy table at Southeast High School. The table will provide a life-sized “virtual cadaver” that allows students to examine tissues, cells and organs. The table is described by its distributor as being the most technologically-advanced anatomy visualization system on the market, a virtual library of both human and animal cadavers and a tool for examination of CT or MRI scans.

This kind of table is more common at medical schools and higher education institutions, with high school students often being left out of using it.

“This is a major win for the students and teachers of Southeast High School’s Health Science Academy,” Thurman said. “[The Anatomage table] gives our students access to technology they may not otherwise encounter. That kind of early exposure is crucial in sparking interest and preparing students to confidently take next steps after high school.”