On the evening of Nov. 30, Science Department Co-Chair Lydia Arguelles was sitting in an emergency room, her foot throbbing. The x-rays confirmed what she already suspected: she had fractured her foot. She had played competitive team sports over the years, but this injury was caused by a less-than-active opponent—the corner of her bed. She could only chuckle. Her Sports Medicine class was starting a unit on the foot the next day, so she decided to bring in her own x-rays to see how sharp her students’ diagnostic skills were. Spoiler alert: they aced that test.
And now, at the end of 2020, that class knows a lot about feet. “It's really cool to be able to put a name to all the bones, muscles, tendons, and ligaments that comprise something even as small as the little toe,” says Sarah Tupy ’21.
How unusual is it to have a sports medicine class in a high school? Depends on what type of high school it is. “St. Francis has a huge sports medicine program,” says Ms. Arguelles. But six years ago, when she established her class, “none of the all-girls Catholic schools had a sports medicine program.”
Ms. Arguelles originally came to Mayfield in 2009 as a part-time athletic trainer through a local physical therapy practice. Teaching a Sports Medicine class came entirely organically out of student interest, after then-student Gabriella Ciulla ’15 approached Ms. Arguelles for help with her sports training and became fascinated with the equipment (How do you use ultrasound machines?) and the job (Can you study this in college?).
Five years after Gabriella successfully lobbied the Mayfield administration to add Sports Medicine as an official course, she is now a certified athletic trainer and is pursuing a graduate degree in the field at West Virginia University. It turned out Gabriella wasn’t the only student who was curious about this health science discipline. That first year, there were four full Sports Medicine classes, and Ms. Arguelles’ courses continue to attract a devoted following.
“This is by far one of my favorite classes ever!” says Sarah. As a student-athlete, Sarah is also gaining some beyond-the-classroom knowledge during this course. “It's rare for me to not be injured at any given moment,” she says. “With this in mind, I have taken the lessons from class with me to the orthopedist, and I can now clearly see the intention behind his every note, palpation, and question regarding my injury. This is the type of real-world application that the class prepares us for, and it's truly eye-opening to see what I've learned play out in a professional setting.”
Like several students before her, Sarah is using this course with a very direct goal in mind. “For as long as I can remember, my dream job has been to become an orthopedic surgeon,” she says. “With my long history of sports injuries, this passion has only strengthened.”
In the 2020-21 school year, there are still two full classes of Sports Medicine, and Ms. Arguelles has also started teaching a popular Anatomy & Physiology class. “I thought when creating my Anatomy class that it was going to kill my Sports Medicine class,” says Ms. Arguelles, laughing at how wrong she was. Several of her current Sports Medicine students took her Anatomy class last year, and one of her students this year, Jolie Beegle ’21, is taking both courses concurrently.
Jolie reflects on how these two courses work hand-in-glove. “One block I learn about the anatomy of bones and the next block I actually get to learn how to treat any sudden injuries to bones!” Jolie plans to major in science when she goes to university next year, and Ms. Arguelles’ classes help her engage with her subject material in a more in-depth way. “The crossover between Anatomy and Sports Medicine is challenging but really aids me in understanding concepts better.”
When Mayfield classes went remote, several teachers created take-home study kits—but Ms. Arguelles’ goodie bags were by far the most striking. Anatomy & Physiology students took home mini-skeletal forms, which they use to mold clay into the shape of muscle groups. The Sports Medicine class all got life-sized CPR mannequins, and have been officially certified—entirely remotely—to perform these life saving techniques. And, because there are many such practical assessments (stop a bleeding wound, bandage an injured body part), reluctant younger siblings and stuffed animals are often recruited for unintentionally adorable Flipgrid videos, where Ms. Arguelles can give her feedback and students can see each other’s work.
It is hard to say how many of Ms. Arguelles’ students hope to directly enter the medical or orthopedic fields, but the skill sets addressed in her classes span many disciplines, touching on medical, legal, athletic, and ethical issues. And she doesn’t think every student will get the same thing from taking her courses. “I always want them to feel like they were a part of the class, that they contributed to something, that they felt heard as a student,” she says. She hopes these classes spark a curiosity in students, a desire for “further investigation,” even if the knowledge they gain is that these disciplines are not for them. “Ultimately,” says Ms. Arguelles, “I really want them to enjoy learning.”
Established in 1931, Mayfield Senior School in Pasadena, CA is a Catholic, independent, college preparatory school for young women grades 9-12. Noted for its rigorous academic program, which includes 28 Advanced Placement and Honors courses, Mayfield’s curriculum is underscored by a philosophy of educating the “whole child,” which also encourages commitment to and excellence in the arts, athletics, community service and spiritual growth. The nurturing environment at Mayfield Senior School allows each student to flourish in an atmosphere of personal attention.