Communication between research scientists and the general public appears ever more difficult in part due to the arcane language used by scientific specialists and in part due to a system of science education that lags far behind the current research advances. The current proposal aims to improve that communication formally by development of high school curriculum units and informally by museum exhibits and public forums.
Research scientists, museum educators, and high school teachers will cooperate in this endeavor centered at the Yale Peabody Museum and drawing on the research resources of the Yale Medical School (clinical and public health). Three infectious vector-borne diseases—malaria, leishmaniasis, and dengue—will be used as models (1) to illustrate impact of climate on changes in epidemiological patterns and (2) to fulfill requirements of the new state and national science standards.
Six specific aims will be achieved.
- Innovative standards-based science curricula will be developed that are based on active and current research in university laboratories. This will be accomplished with a consultation team of 8 public school teachers 3 professional educators and a 9-member science advisor board.
- Public school teaching capacity will be strengthened by use of museum collections in making the link between climate and insect-borne disease ecology. Summer teacher training institutes will expose teachers to the teaching unit and associated museum and lab materials.
- Student participation in developing science process skills will make use of museum specimens and laboratory tools hands-on experiments and field trips to science facilities.
- The new curricula will be disseminated first in selected sites in Connecticut and then at education centers in Texas, Oregon, and California. The classroom units will be marketed nationally by the Peabody Museum publications office and available on the museum website.
- Annual family events will be sponsored at the Peabody Museum and participating schools that highlight the infectious disease theme; a traveling kiosk/exhibit will be designed that explores the interplay between human travel climate changes and infectious disease risks.
- The model of science partnerships developed herein will be made available for use by other informal science institutions research institutions and public schools; this will be provided via the Peabody Museum website by contacts with local schools and at regional and national conferences.
PUBLIC HEALTH RELEVANCE
In an era of globalization international transport and travel bring previously unknown exotic diseases into the United States. Because malaria, leishmaniasis, and dengue are endemic diseases in most tropical countries they routinely enter the U.S. This proposal increases public awareness of these diseases through museum exposition and development of K–12 curricula based on the most recent research on these diseases.