Genes, the Environment, and Me: Health and STEM Network (GEMNET)

Screenshot of the game Blood Sugar Balance
Players keep blood glucose within range by balancing insulin and glucagon release with food and exercise choices. Watch out! Diabetes status and access to resources change the game play.

  • Project Description

    Genes, the Environment, and Me: Health and STEM Network (GEMNet) is developing a cross-disciplinary approach for teaching and learning about type 2 diabetes in high school biology, health, and family and consumer sciences classes. Two new complementary instructional units use the growth of type 2 diabetes to provide context for important concepts around nutrition, homeostasis, genetics, and more. These two units, Health, Nutrition, and Type 2 Diabetes and Biology, Homeostasis, and Type 2 Diabetes  are currently being implemented in health and biology classes, and are the basis of a longitudinal research study. We are also working with teachers and scientists to create an expanded collection of type 2 diabetes-themed lessons to be integrated into ethnically and racially diverse high school science and health curricula, thereby increasing opportunities for underrepresented minorities to engage in biomedical education and strengthening relationships with teachers from these communities.

    Genome Sciences Education Outreach at the University of Washington in Seattle develops innovative programs that bring leading-edge science to teachers and students in K–12 schools. These programs provide interdisciplinary, hands-on science curricula, teacher training, equipment, and support to promote systemic change in schools.

  • Abstract

    Genes, the Environment, and Me: Health and STEM Network (GEMNet), has developed a model for teaching about type 2 diabetes (t2d) and engaging students in biomedical careers using a cross-disciplinary approach with high school biology, health, and Family and Consumer Science (FACS) teachers.

    Diabetes is a complex condition that unites science and health concepts, and links these concepts to broader social issues, i.e., environmental influences, health care, scientific research, personal choice, access to resources, diet and exercise, social justice, and public policy. The nature of this complex topic lends itself to multi-disciplinary instruction in which students can benefit from exposure to different aspects of t2d in different high school contexts.

    This project builds on our successful SEPA-funded project, Genes, the Environment, and Me (GEM). Through GEM, we have developed a strong community of high school science and health teachers primarily in the Yakima Valley, a rural agricultural region in central Washington. Schools in this region serve highly diverse students with high percentages of Hispanic and Native American students, many of whom are from high poverty families with limited English proficiency and low educational attainment levels. These are also populations that experience disproportionately high rates of t2d, which makes this a timely and important topic to integrate into high school curricula.

    We built upon our established community of high school teachers in science and health in central Washington, and expand our network and curriculum to other communities and disciplines, including teachers in the Seattle School District. GEMNet has produced standards-based curriculum to teach about t2d and related health issues for inclusion in introductory and advanced high school biology, health, and FACS courses.

    Project components include: 1) developing and piloting new t2d lessons specific to the different high school courses; 2) providing discipline-specific teacher professional development; 3) evaluating student outcomes following one or more exposures to the curriculum in different classes; and 4) disseminating instructional materials and strategies within our primary teaching community and to other regions of the state and nation.

Project Audience

Secondary science teachers, health teachers, Family and Consumer Science teachers, secondary schools.

Subjects Addressed

Type 2 diabetes, gene-environment interactions, homeostasis and feedback mechanisms, population genetics, nutrition, disease prevention, NGSS, secondary education

Associated Educational Resources

Associated SEPA News