Learning and Discovery in Experimental Environmental Health Science: On the Path from Data to Knowledge

Project Website(s)

SciEd Conference Poster

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SciEd Conference Poster
  • Project Description

    This SEPA program will prepare pre-service, early career, and in-service teachers to provide large numbers of students, particularly disadvantaged and underrepresented students, with authentic research experiences linking biological concepts with societally relevant problems of environmental health/chemical toxicity. To become adept at doing and analyzing experiments, students will develop a solid comprehension of the elements of the scientific method and an introductory facility with computational analysis of large data sets. Conducting research within a framework of understanding the history of environmental chemicals and their implications for environmental justice, students will gain insight into relationships between science and society and, in the process, be stimulated to enter biomedical STEM fields.

  • Abstract

    To achieve a healthy society, America needs both highly trained health professionals and a science-literate public. The development of both begins during K-12 education. Within the NIH, the SEPA program provides the principal means to influence pre-college science education. Our application builds on current infrastructure, which provides ca. 1700 high school students per year, many of them from underrepresented groups, with authentic scientific experiences based on experiment modules that utilize live organisms as biomedical models. Students investigate the impacts of environmental/life-style chemicals on fundamental biological processes. In the process, ca. 20 pre-service teachers per year learn to teach with an inquiry-based approach. Moving forward, the proposed SEPA program will i) engage in-service and pre-service teachers and students with an in-depth introduction to the scientific method and its components that is closely linked to the conduct of the experiment modules. A major focus will involve analytical applications of data science that emerge after aggregating large amounts of data submitted by students to a computational portal and data repository. Complementing this novel emphasis, ii) student experimentation will be placed within a context of science and society, called environmental health civics – a history of environmental chemicals in relation to governmental regulation and chemical toxicity research. Attention will be directed toward environmental justice, particularly issues which effect Milwaukee youth, including lead (Pb) poisoning, through the use of a powerful on-line environmental health mapping program from the EPA. Experiment modules and special student conferences will further develop this area. Both i) and ii) will be fully aligned with the Next Generation Science Standards. In addition, we will iii) provide new ways for early career teachers to implement our program as they transition from pre-service status to mature in-service teachers. Finally, iv) we will transfer our program to an on-line format and partner with other institutions to expand the reach of our pre-service teacher program. Content goals will be merged with our objective to offer large numbers of minority and economically disadvantaged students research experiences with our modules. Our Specific Aims are to 1. Introduce in-service and early career teachers to the principles of data and data science in relation to our environmental health experiment modules. 2. Collaborate with the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, UW-Stevens Point and Carthage College science teacher education programs to certify 100 pre-service teachers in the principles and practice of scientific experimentation and communication. 3. Provide 8,500 high school students with a) experiences in doing data and data science-focused scientific research, and b) an understanding of the importance of chemical toxicology, including a focus on environmental justice. 4. Work with the Milwaukee Public School System and other regional schools to provide large numbers of low income and underrepresented minority students with research experiences. 5. Develop a robust on-line version of our program. 6. Conduct a thorough evaluation of the entire project.

  • Dissemination Strategies

    The WInSTEP SEPA program team will continue broad scale dissemination strategies including further development of our program website. We will be making presentations and writing papers about data and how the content and quality of student communication products – scientific posters and papers – reflect this new emphasis on data science. In addition, we will add two new important facets of dissemination. First, we are beginning partnerships with the science education programs at Carthage College and the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. The aim will be to export our SEPA-based education of pre-service teachers at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee to those teacher preparation programs, thereby, enlarging our reach throughout the SE Wisconsin region. Second, we will adapt our program to the internet. The initial motivation is to ensure that the program continues to reach our cadre of schools, teachers, and students even if COVID-19 prevents in-person classes. Once in place, the on-line medium will permit physically distant sites to adopt our program.


UWM Brings Science (and Zebrafish!) to Wisconsin High Schools

Project Audience

Pre-service, early career, and in-service high school science teachers and their students.

Subjects Addressed

Inquiry-based learning and guided research using model organisms; environmental health literacy linked to research on chemical toxicity; data science using program-aggregated student research data; in-depth understanding the scientific process as the basis for doing guided research; written (papers and posters) and oral (Student Research Conference) scientific communication as the culmination of the scientific process; science and society in relation to environmental health with emphasis on environmental health civics/history and environmental justice; pre-service and early career teacher preparation and development to provide inquiry-based STEM education for high school students

Associated SEPA Publication(s)