The Science of Really Gross Things: Engaging Young Learners in Biomedical Science

  • Abstract

    Through “Addressing the Science of Really Gross Things: Engaging Young Learners in Biomedical Science Through a Fulldome Planetarium Show and Supporting Curricula” Morehead Planetarium and Science Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in close collaboration with NIH-funded researchers at the UNC and a leading children’s book author will develop an informal science education media project and a suite of hands-on inquiry-based curricula based on the media project for use in science centers museums and schools. This project will build the pipeline of future researchers and create awareness of NIH-funded research by generating interest and excitement among children age 9-13 in the health sciences and related careers and building their science content knowledge. To achieve the objective the investigators will develop a fulldome planetarium show; create correlating curricula for summer camps afterschool programs scout programs science center field trips science clubs and schools; and produce a DVD highlighting careers in the health sciences. In addition the project will use several methods to target populations traditionally underrepresented in the biomedical fields including featuring professionals from underrepresented populations in the multimedia and curricula products making outreach visits to counties with large populations traditionally underrepresented in health science research careers and producing a Spanish-language version of the products. The use of a known brand “Grossology” is an innovative way to connect to children in the target age range and to encourage the informal science education community to embrace health-science content in their fulldome theaters. In addition the project’s hub-and-spoke approach further encourages adoption of this programming by providing informal science venues with both an engaging experience (hub) and the supporting curricula (the spokes) that is necessary to extend the show’s potential for having significant educational impact. A strong project team maximizes the project’s likelihood for success. The team includes fulldome producers and educators from Morehead and NIH-funded researchers with expertise in appropriate science content areas. In addition the investigators have created a network of consultants advisory board members and evaluators that will create feedback loops designed to ensure high-quality scientifically-accurate educationally-effective products. The investigators will use a combination of free and revenue-based dissemination strategies to ensure that the products of this award are broadly distributed. These strategies hold significant promise for creating broad use of this project’s products in the nation’s science centers museums and classrooms.