NIH SCIENCE EDUCATION PARTNERSHIP AWARDS

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Biology-Environmental Health Science Nexus: Inquiry, Content and Communication

Grant Website

http://www4.uwm.edu/cehsc/community/sepa.cfm

Project Description

"Biology-Environmental Health Science Nexus: Inquiry, Content and Communication" focuses on high school general science and biology teachers and students in metropolitan Milwaukee, particularly minority students in the Milwaukee Public School District. The objective of this project is to increase the number of students with effective life science literacy and ambitions to undertake biomedical careers. A series of fully developed and supported experiment modules based on content recommended by the National Science Education Standards will be used to teach ninth-grade general science and 10th-grade biology content. The modules will offer teachers and students multiple encounters with authentic scientific inquiry. In addition, information on student communication about the experiments within and between classes, writing and publishing research communications and reports, and participation in an annual research conference will be integrated into the module content. Teachers will gain professional development through workshops, yearly scientific and educational support, evaluation activities and feedback, and completing program activities that enhance their abilities as scientists and science mentors for their students.

Abstract

The proposed program, "Biology-Environmental Health Science Nexus: Inquiry, Content, and Communication," focuses on the high school general science and biology teachers and students in metropolitan Milwaukee, particularly minority students in the Milwaukee Public School District. Our general objective is to develop the skills of inquiry in teachers and students as the basis for doing and understanding science, particularly in relation to life science and environmental health.

This goal takes form in science content recommended by the National Science Education Standards in the areas of genetics, cellular properties, and organismic behavior. These areas are enriched by strong links to environmental health issues of importance to students, including exposure to lead, alcohol, and UV radiation and conditions such as asthma. A series of fully developed and supported experiment modules will be created that can be used to teach ninth-grade general science and 10th-grade biology content. Each involves the use of aquatic organisms as biomedical models and some include macromolecular models and molecular biology experimentation. The modules set in motion activities that together provide teachers and students with multiple encounters with authentic scientific inquiry. Integrated with the modules in two science courses are student communication about the experiments within and between classes, writing and publishing research communications and reports, and participation in an annual research conference.

Teachers gain professional development through workshops, yearly scientific and educational support, evaluation activities and feedback, and doing program activities that enhance their abilities as scientists and science mentors for their students. In order to accomplish our objective, we have the following specific aims for students:

  1. To adapt current middle school life-science experiment modules for high school general science
  2. To develop and implement experiment modules for high school biology that relate to current modules used in middle school life science (Aim 1) and combine curricular content with environmental health relevance
  3. To develop students' scientific communication skills through written research reports, inter-class Internet discussion of results and interpretations, and through convening a yearly student research conference
  4. To engage students (boys and girls) of color from various socioeconomic and ethnic backgrounds
  5. For teachers to accomplish these aims, other program goals are:

  6. To offer yearly summer workshops for teacher professional development (general science and biology workshops) in science inquiry, based on the experiment modules
  7. To link teachers with student teachers who have studied the modules in a UW-Milwaukee College of Education course on scientific inquiry
  8. To provide teachers with robust scientific and educational support for the introduction of experiment modules and communication activities into their courses
  9. To include a vigorous national dissemination component to the program
  10. To conduct probing, thorough evaluation of the proposed program and its elements that includes formative and summative evaluation.

PUBLIC HEALTH RELEVANCE (provided by applicant): The proposed project aims to increase the number of students with effective life science literacy and some with ambitions to undertake biomedical careers. We focus our program on the heart of science, namely inquiry and do so in relation to important elements of life science content as well as students' and society's wider interests in the environment and health. Together, they provide the intellectual base needed to be scientifically active and the connections to everyday world that stimulate student excitement about scientific knowledge and inquiry.