The Science of Healthful Living

  • Project Description

    The long-term objective of this SEPA project is to design and field test a science-enriched middle school healthful living curriculum to increase students’ knowledge and interest in health-related science enhance their intention to pursue a life science-related career and improve the communities’ understandings of NIH funded clinical and basic research. In 2010 the Trust for America ranked North Carolina (NC) as the state with the 10th highest rate of obesity in the nation. Currently more than one third of NC adolescents and two thirds of adults are overweight or obese. Six local education associations (LEAs) in the Piedmont region of NC will partner with scientists and educators on this SEPA team to design and evaluate The Science of Healthful Living Curriculum (HLC). The HLC will be based on the National Science Content Standards and the NC Standard Course of Study for 6th-8th grade students. Currently the six LEA partners do not have a HLC based on the NC Standard Course of Study. This SEPA middle school HLC will use student-centered modules to help teens examine the effects of their physical activity and nutrition choices on body systems. The specific aims of this SEPA project are to evaluate the extent to which (Aim 1) the science-enriched HLC can increase students’ knowledge of health-related science and the science inquiry process; (Aim 2) students’ personal experiences with the HLC can increase their interest in and understanding of effective science practices and their vision of themselves as future scientists; and (Aim 3) students’ participation with their families in HLC-related events can increase their family’s trust in and use of NIH-sponsored research results enhancing their life and health choices. The HLC will be assessed during funding Yrs 2 – 3 using a randomized clinical trial in which 20 middle schools representing the 6 LEA partners will be assigned to either experimental (HLC) or control conditions. Curricular effects will be analyzed using a hierarchical linear modeling design. The professional development plan includes extensive teacher training throughout the funding period increasing teachers’ science knowledge and ability to use science-education teaching strategies. At the conclusion of the clinical trial period the curriculum will be disseminated locally and nationally to new middle schools within 3 teacher support conditions: sustaining full and web-based. The dissemination will be evaluated using a quasi-experimental design in funding Yrs 4 – 5 to test the effectiveness of the three dissemination conditions. Health and physical education teachers will implement the HLC in their classes. The Healthful Living concept reflects a deep integration of Life and Health-related Science Standards taught using a constructivist student centered approach to the scientific inquiry process. The HLC leverages instructional time currently allocated to health/physical education to increase time for science education. As a result of this SEPA over 33000 young adolescents will conduct experiments examining the effects of healthful living choices on weight and stress management and preventable diseases such as Type II diabetes and many heart related illnesses and events. PUBLIC HEALTH RELEVANCE (provided by applicant): This project will address public health concerns about adolescents’ sedentary life styles and obesity through the development assessment and dissemination of a science-based Healthful Living Curriculum. Based on the National Science Content Standards this middle school curriculum will increase young adolescents’ knowledge of health-related science through a student-centered physically active curriculum. Students will share science and personal health knowledge with family members increasing their trust in and use of NIH research findings to make positive healthy life decisions.