Environmental Health Science Education for Rural Youth
Offer innovative training experiences and career development opportunities in biomedical science Increase enrollment in post-secondary science education Improve science literacy by making information and materials culturally appropriate and comprehensible to a broad audience including Native Americans rural residents and groups most affected by environmental health problems and disparities in health outcomes
The Center for Environmental Health Sciences (CEHS) at the University of Montana has formed a productive partnership with Salish Kootenai College (SKC) in Pablo Mont. in a subcontractual relationship throughout the planning and implementation phases of a Science Education Partnership Award project called Environmental Health Science Education for Rural Youth. The goal of this project is to improve science literacy by making information and materials culturally appropriate and comprehensible to a broad audience including Native Americans rural residents and groups most affected by environmental health problems and disparities in health outcomes. Planning and implementation activities will focus on: Strengthening the partnership among CEHS SKC and a network of community-based education groups to enhance environmental health science education at the K-12 level which can lead to increased enrollment in post-secondary science education through innovative training experiences and career development opportunities in biomedical science Developing culturally appropriate strategies and materials relating to environmental health science emphasizing hands-on inquiry-based activities about health-related subjects such as air toxins water pollution and other environmental public health priorities Disseminating information on environmental health science by means of a mobile science center and multi-media programs making materials understandable accessible and relevant for students in the context of rural Montana Expanding public support for integrating environmental health training in K-12 schools in ways that are consistent with rural workforce and educational needs as well as the diverse cultural and socioeconomic character of Montana By integrating Montana’s standards for science with the precepts underlying Indian Education For All this partnership project will use culture to convey science to tribes and concomitantly use science to give greater cultural perspective and awareness of environmental health issues to non-tribal students and teachers.
Collaborate with tribal colleges and a network of community-based education organizations and specialists to enhance K-12 environmental health science education Offer summer institutes that involve integrating environmental health topics into the school curriculum as professional development opportunities for rural teacher; Develop culturally appropriate strategies materials and learning opportunities including Saturday academies laboratory tours portable learning modules field trips and summer internships. Emphasis is on hands-on inquiry-based activities regarding air and water quality issues Superfund remediation and environmental health hazards. Expand public support for integrating environmental health training in K-12 schools utilizing family education model in concert with Montana’s Indian Education for All Act. Materials and activities available at community health fairs school events pow-wows. Deliver distance learning instruction to rural K-12 classrooms and tribal colleges.
The evaluation design is divided into two phases: formative evaluation to guide the development of curricular materials and activities during years 1 through 3 and impact evaluation using a quasi-experimental design to test the effectiveness and impact of the project in years 4 and 5. The formative evaluation phase is employing two approaches. The first approach involves monitoring and collecting reaction/feedback data from student participants in events such as Saturday academies science symposium and curriculum enhancement activities. Rosters are kept for tracking and follow-up during the impact phase to examine the extent to which these events influenced students to take more science classes and major in environmental health science in college. The second formative approach is tied to the curriculum development process engaged in by a cadre of Montana teachers focusing on air and water quality instructional units as well as in the development and testing of the Indigenous Mobile Environmental Health Science Program. Customized formative evaluation plans are being developed with each teacher to collect student data used to improve activities materials and pedagogy. The major evaluation component during Year 3 is an impact analysis of the Air Toxics Under the Big Sky subproject. This quasi-experimental study compares performance on an environmental health science content assessment and an attitude survey between participating (140 students; five classrooms) and comparison students (145 students seven classrooms). The overarching question is: Do students who participate fully in an authentic research project that culminates in a public performance (symposium of peers) develop a richer understanding of science and investigation increase their confidence in becoming scientists one day and improve their attitudes toward science careers than students who do not have the opportunity to participate in authentic scientific research? Beginning-of-year surveys and other data are being used as covariates to adjust post-scores on the content assessment and attitude survey. Qualitative data from each student will also be collected after the symposium to gain insights into challenges encountered during student research and knowledge gained by students as they engaged in the scientific process. These latter data have been collected from students in two previous years and will be used in comparison to the student performances of the current year.
Resources for Sharing
Air Toxics Under the Big Sky – Curricula developed through a research partnership with five western Montana high schools two Nez Perce Indian Reservation high schools in Idaho and the Nez Perce Distance Learning Center of Northwest Indian College. Faculty are trained so they can instruct their students in sampling indoor air for air pollutants (VOCs PM2.5) and human health impacts from wildland fires woodstove combustion agricultural burning and mountain valley inversions. Small-Scale Chemistry Training – Hands-on lab training modules presented by Salish Kootenai College on small-scale chemistry delivered through its Indigenous Mobile Environmental Health Program. This campus-to-community project introduces students and teachers to small-scale chemistry and the research process by guiding them through the simulation of environmental episodes that can affect human health. Western Montana Watershed Education – In partnership with Salish Kootenai College local teachers content consultants a summer program on the Flathead Reservation and two nonprofit organizations to deliver lessons and disseminate developed material in formal and informal educational settings. Environmental health lessons focus the 120-mile long Superfund complex along the Clark Fork River. Community Involvement/Environmental Health Awareness – activities materials lectures which address chronic diseases (asthma CVD diabetes) and the role of environmental contaminants (asbestos arsenic mercury meth production PM VOCs).
Students and teachers at grades 4-12 plus a public outreach component.
Environmental health is being used as an integrative context for science learning with a focus on water and air quality issues in the rural West. Special effort is being made to incorporate Native American perspectives and to develop instructional materials that are cross-curricular in scope (math science language arts social studies health enhancement).