Epidemiological Approach to Environmental Health Science in High School Biology

  • Abstract

    The proposed project’s primary aim is to encourage high school biology students to use a scientific approach to evaluating environmental health concerns by incorporating an epidemiologic approach to teaching about environmental health science into high school biology classes. Forty-five Maine biology teachers will be provided with training via three-week summer institutes followed up by ongoing contact with scientists in the field of epidemiology and public health. The summer sessions will be held at a research institute whose activities focus on preventive medicine. That institute also houses the University of Southern Maine’s Graduate Program in Applied Immunology. The team of scientists and educators responsible for delivering the biology teacher training will in large part be drawn from the two institutions. The strategy involves first providing the biology teachers with a knowledge base about epidemiologic and biostatistical concepts and then providing specific examples of environmental health problems whose investigations make use of those concepts. Biology teachers are already familiar with the scientific inquiry method. The principles involved with that method overlap sufficiently with the principles of epidemiology that biology teachers should assimilate the new information without difficulty. This in turn will enhance the teachers’ literacy in environmental health science sufficiently for them to guide their classes in evaluating a wide variety of issues arising as part of daily classroom activity. Students in grades 8-12 have reached sufficient maturation in cognitive learning ability that they can be expected to understand the epidemiologic principles that underlie environmental health science. The summer sessions for teachers will combine lectures health science library research and interactive sessions that deal with the epidemiologic and biostatistical principles. All participants will receive training sessions in the use of sophisticated electronic cmmunication tools that can be used to maintain contact with project scientists. Recruitment for the project will be via an existing biology teacher network set up and maintained by the applicant research institute. Information about the project will be disseminated by presentations and the webpage at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and at an annual meeting of the National Association of Biology Teachers.

  • Additional Information

    This project is designed to encourage high school biology students to use epidemiological methods to evaluate environmental health concerns. Basic epidemiologic principles and specific environmental health issues such as radon cigarette smoke and heavy metals will be discussed. The project also includes summer institutes consisting of lectures small group reading and discussions and hands-on laboratory exercises.