Health Sciences Fireside Chat

Posted on Categories Academic/Technical Skill Integration, Misc. Lesson Plans & Ideas

At a Glance

The Health Sciences instructor at State College High School creates a warm and inviting environment for students to discuss content-related books that they are assigned to read. 


As part of their unit on aging, students in the Health Sciences program at State College High School were assigned to read the book and watch the movie “Still Alice” by Lisa Genova. This book, which addresses the topic of Alzheimer’s, was selected as a way to provide students a realistic look at the nature of the disease and the effect it has on patients and their families beyond the information presented in their textbook and without visiting a nursing home.

Students read the book primarily at home, but also they had the opportunity to read in class when their work was complete or if there was a substitute teacher. They covered four chapters per week.

After completing the reading, students were assigned to six groups of four students each. These groups were responsible for leading a discussion on their chapters during the Friday “fireside chat.” On the day of the “fireside chat,” the instructor created a warm and comfortable atmosphere in her classroom by projecting a YouTube video of a burning fireplace. She served hot chocolate and snacks and held a fireside chat about a book she required students to read. At the chat, students discussed what it would be like to have the disease, how they would handle their lives if they or their parents were diagnosed, and the skills/knowledge needed to care for patients with the disease.

Origin / Implementation

The practice was created during the 2014-15 school year. The book “Still Alice” was recommended at a conference the instructor had attended. The instructor wanted a method to teach the material in a way that would impact her students and would force them to think critically about the disease and the role of healthcare providers in treating it. She also recommends the book “Left Neglected,” by the same author, which is about the condition left neglect.

Results / Impact

The lesson was impactful, enjoyable and used a number of teaching strategies that taught subject content, reading/listening skills and higher order thinking as it relates to interpretation of text/content, 21st century skills and character/values. Students who participated in the lesson were interested and fully engaged in the discussion about the book. Empirical results were difficult to determine but all students performed well on class assessments in this unit.


State College High School
Dr. Sharon Perry, CTC Director

Jennifer Reed, Instructor