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SEPA Project Descriptions, November 2007

Science Education Partnership Awards (SEPA) are designed to incorporate inquiry-based learning experiences to stimulate interest in science, further public understanding of health issues, and encourage the next generation of health professionals. With an emphasis on reducing health disparities, the program's K-12 projects target minorities and students in rural and underserved communities. The awards support enhanced training for science teachers; the development and distribution of hands-on science curricula; and websites for students, teachers, and the general public.


Children's Hospital & Research Center Oakland

Oakland, CA

Health and Biomedical Science for a Diverse Community
Award: $539,789

Principal Investigator
Bertram H. Lubin, M.D.
Email: BLUBIN@CHORI.ORG

Description:

Children's Hospital Oakland Research Institute (CHORI), in collaboration with the Hall of Health, a hands-on health museum, proposes a two-year, Phase II SEPA project entitledHealth and Biomedical Science for a Diverse Community. The purpose of this project is to disseminate: 1) "Your Genes and Your Choices," a unique, interactive exhibit on social and genetic factors in health, and (2) a 4th and 5th grade health and biomedical science curriculum. The exhibit and curriculum were developed during Phase I. "Your Genes and Your Choices," which has eight interactive stations and has been piloted at the Hall of Health, is designed for small science museums and health education centers. It will travel to four venues nationwide during Phase II and remain available to other venues after the grant ends. The innovative, activity-based curriculum consists of eight instructional units that introduce students to scientific concepts and investigation in the context of the study of diseases and health conditions that disproportionately affect minority populations. The topics are: Fourth Grade: Unit 1 - Nutrition: Balance and Imbalance (Obesity); Unit 2 - Traumatic Brain Injuries; Unit 3 - Infectious Diseases and Immunity; Unit 4 - Environmental Toxics: Poisoning Prevention. Fifth Grade: Unit 1 - Nutrition: Diabetes; Unit 2 - Asthma and Lung Disease; Unit 3 - Heart Disease; and Unit 4 - Sickle Cell Anemia and Genetics. Each unit consists of five one-hour lessons. The curriculum was piloted during Phase I, both in the classroom and in an after-school science club, at two elementary schools serving predominantly minority children in Oakland, California. Now CHORI proposes to: 1) disseminate the curriculum via science clubs to ten elementary schools in Oakland and Berkeley; 2) offer a series of educator workshops to enhance the skills of teachers and after-school personnel to teach scientific investigation and to incorporate the latest findings in biomedical science across the curriculum; and 3) hold family science festivals at each participating school to introduce parents to the topics of the science clubs. The festivals will include hands-on activities, talks by CHORI researchers, and focused discussions with healthcare providers on issues relating to minority health. This project involves clinical as well as basic science investigators, healthcare providers, teachers and health educators, high school and college students, and faculty from San Francisco State University and the University of California at Berkeley. The ultimate goals are to make science interesting and relevant to children who come from ethnically diverse, low income environments; to help them meet state and national objectives for learning in health, science, and scientific inquiry; to help them and their parents understand the relationship between science and health; and to foster their interest in science, so that they may consider future careers related to biomedical science. All project activities will be assessed through formative and summative evaluation. The science clubs will remain in place at the ten participating schools after Phase II funding ends, and the curriculum and evaluation tools will be posted on the Internet, making them available to others.


Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory

Cold Spring Harbor, NY

Nationwide Dissemination of Inside Cancer, a SEPA-Funded Internet Site for Teachers

Award: $372,626

Principal Investigator

David Andrew Micklos
Email: MICKLOS@CSHL.ORG

Description:

In January 2006, the Dolan DNA Learning Center (DNALC) launched its SEPA Phase I project:Inside Cancer, a media-rich Internet site that examines the molecular genetic basis of cancer. Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory now proposes a Phase II Project, which will employ a six-part strategy to broadly disseminate the site and evaluate its use as a resource in high school biology and health education: 1) A partnership will disseminate the site to 800 secondary science teachers at one-day workshops held at 20 sites nationwide. This cost-effective program will focus on key concepts and relevant teaching standards, and it will provide a dedicated base for conducting second-round training and evaluation activities. 2) An online Teacher Center will allow teachers to develop custom multimedia lessons based on Inside Cancer materials. Key features will be a Concept Matrix, Lesson Exchange, and Atomizer, which will match content with teaching standards, facilitate a community approach to lesson plan development, and provide a searchable interface of over 3,000 multimedia content "atoms." 3) Fellowships will allow three lead faculty to work directly with DNALC staff to develop the Teacher Center and model lesson plans (DNALC Fellows). Eighty workshop alumni will serve as Regional Fellows and receive stipends to conduct second-round training activities reaching 640 additional teachers. 4) An annual review will assess fidelity to project objectives and analyze site logs to detect patterns of use. An online survey of 1,500 Inside Cancer users annually will assess differences in site use among teachers, students, science and medical professionals, and the general public. 5) A longitudinal evaluation of 1,440 participants in workshops and second-round activities will gauge how teachers use Inside Cancer and the Teacher Center, and how their teaching behavior changes over time. 6) A controlled study will compare attitudinal and educational effects among 280 high school students - half of whom use Inside Cancer in their classes and half who do not. Biology and health classes will be selected from a single school district that reflects the ethnic and racial distribution of the U.S. population.


Diversity Films, Inc.

Stamford, CT

Serial Passage: AIDS, Race, and Culture

Award: $539,280

Principal Investigator

Claudia Lorraine Pryor
Email: pryorc@aol.com

Description:

Serial Passage: AIDS, Race, and Culture is a 3-hour documentary film series and curriculum enhancement that examines the process of scientific inquiry in the development of the serial passage/contaminated needle theory of the origin and spread of HIV/AIDS, along with the disproportionate impact of the pandemic upon Africans and African-Americans. African-Americans constitute 12.1% of the US population but have accounted for nearly of 50% the new HIV/AIDS cases every year for more than a decade.

The documentary film series is being made with a cohort of 20 inner-city African-American high school students in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania who worked on the project as interviewers, evaluators, and research subjects. They personally questioned renowned American and African AIDS research scientists, health workers, and a wide variety of people who had contracted HIV/AIDS from heterosexual and homosexual activity, as well as intravenous drug transmission. As research subjects, the students completed pre- and post-anonymous surveys and candidly discussed their own sexual histories on film. As they are underage minors, their identities are not revealed. An interim project evaluation report showed a dramatic increase in the students' perceived knowledge of HIV/AIDS, and a substantial decrease in their reported sexual activity. The students are the narrators of the documentary film which is being constructed from their point of view.

ABC and PBS have provided letters of support for the project and agreed to screen the documentary film for broadcast consideration. The project is now entering Phase II, which includes: 1) editing, postproduction, and dissemination of the documentary; 2) a widespread evaluation study of the documentary among high school students; and 3) development and dissemination of a curriculum enhancement.


Miami University Oxford

Oxford, OH

HealthRICH: Health Risks, Information, and Choices

Award: $535,512

Principal Investigator

Arlyne M. Sarquis
Email: sarquiam@muohio.edu

Description:

Health Risks, Information, and Choices (HealthRICH) is about educating young teens and their families about environmental health risks and empowering them to make informed personal choices to reduce these risks. This Phase II project will result in the national dissemination of the HealthRICH ideology through programming for teachers to help them integrate HealthRICH activities into the classroom and through establishing science/health after-school activity clubs in middle schools throughout the country. An accompanying research study will investigate the impact of HealthRICH materials and activities on student learning in various settings and with various demographic groups.

HealthRICH materials include student handbooks, club leader guides, and Web resources about health topics such as hand washing, indoor air pollution, skin tanning and bleaching, reading labels on household products, and drinking water. These materials will be shared with the large, nationwide partnership network and awareness of these materials will be promoted through various public relations efforts. New materials, including family science handouts for use in outreach, ethics scenarios for use with the Strive to Thrive! clubs, and a how-to guide for creative outreach will be developed.


Pittsburgh Tissue Engineering Initiative

Pittsburgh, PA

A Starfish Can Grow a New Arm, Why Can't I?

Phase I & II Educational Partnership
Award: $1,255,432

Principal Investigator

Joan F. Schanck
Email: JSCHANCK@PTEI.ORG

Description:

This project is a partnership with formal and informal educators, clinicians, and researchers to develop a permanent science center exhibition and related, systemically integrated formal and informal educational programming—all of which are aimed at exciting and meaningfully engaging students to the wonders of science and the field of tissue engineering (TE) and stem cell research. To introduce basic TE/Regenerative Medicine concepts to middle-school students in a hands-on, engaging way, The Pittsburgh Tissue Engineering Initiative (PTEI), in collaboration with Achieving Student Success through Excellence in Teaching (ASSET), the Carnegie Science Center (CSC) and the University of Pittsburgh Learning Research and Development Center (LRDC), will develop a hands-on, interactive TE Exhibit to be first installed at the Carnegie Science Center in Pittsburgh, PA with a traveling exhibit component. The exhibit, If A Starfish Can Grow a New Arm, Why Can't I?, and accompanying standards- and inquiry-based curricula materials will target 6th–8th grade students and their teachers. This unique TE exhibit will have three activity clusters (kiosks), with 3–4 activities per kiosk. The first kiosk, The Natural World, presents as background the biology of the innate ability of lower life forms to self-regenerate body parts, and the loss of this ability in higher life forms. The second kiosk, The Science of TE, presents the components of TE and stem cell research, including types of natural and synthetic scaffolding materials; types of precursor cells that can be seeded onto scaffolds; and the growth factors, differentiating factors, and nutrients that enable these cells to grow into various tissues within the body. The third kiosk, Clinical Applications and Future Questions, features clinical cases in which cell-seeded scaffolds have successfully restored function in humans, interactive "ask the scientist" videos, and the future of TE. Life-science teaching modules currently used in PA and other U.S. cities planned for replicating the exhibit will have inquiry-based TE curricula enhancements constructed for use in classrooms and in teacher professional development. Of particular importance, detailed project effectiveness assessments will be conducted throughout. This exhibit— and its accompanying instructional materials for students and teachers— will further understanding of principles of basic biology, chemistry, and engineering within various life forms. Additionally, it will demonstrate how science and technology, through TE, take advantage of these principles to promote healing and restoration of tissue function in a natural way. This experience will pave the way for students' appreciation of the interdisciplinary nature of biosciences of the future and inculcate an appreciation and understanding of public health and public policy implications.


San Francisco State University

San Francisco, CA

Spectrum: Building Pathways to Biomedical Research Careers for Girls and Women of Color

Award: $1,334,561

Principal Investigator

Kimberly D., Tanner, Ph.D.
Email: kdtanner@sfsu.edu

Description:

The Science Education Partnership and Assessment Laboratory (SEPAL) in the Department of Biology at San Francisco State University (SFSU) proposes Spectrum: Building Pathways to Biomedical Research Careers for Girls and Women of Color. While progress has been made in encouraging girls in science, women of color are still largely absent from the biomedical research community, and no materials or models currently exist that are designed specifically to attract girls of color to these careers. Through the Spectrum initiative, SEPAL seeks to pioneer a multi-pronged program that brings together K-12 teachers and students with individuals from multiple stages on the biomedical research career pathway to learn together about the biology behind women's health issues and about research being conducted by female biomedical researchers of color. Together, a community composed of biomedical scientists who are women of color—including SFSU undergraduate students, SFSU Masters degree students, SFSU alumni in local doctoral and biotechnology positions, and SFSU Faculty—and middle and high school students and teachers will partner to address the following specific aims: 1) to educate local middle and high school students, especially girls of color, and teachers about research on women's health and research by local NIH-funded researchers who are primarily women of color; 2) to develop a community of biomedical research role models and mentors that include females of color at multiple stages along the career pathway from middle school to faculty; 3) to develop a series of biomedical science activities tailored to the interests of adolescent girls and linked to the research programs of NIH-funded biomedical researchers who are primarily women of color; 4) to partner with the local and national Expanding Your Horizons organizations to disseminate the resulting curriculum on the science of women's health issues and this mentoring model nationwide; and 5) to investigate the role of participation in Spectrum on the interest of girls of color in biomedical science and retention of women of color in the research career pathway. Spectrumis so named to reflect its dual emphasis on developing scientists of color and on involving individuals from the entire spectrum of positions along the biomedical research career track.


Seattle Biomedical Research Institute

Seattle, WA

BioQuest Academy: Creating an Innovative Immersion Program for Teens

Award: $801,955 (3-year total)

Principal Investigator

Theresa Baden Britschgi, M.S.
Phone: 206-256-7473
Email: theresa.britschgi@sbri.org

Description:

This application outlines Seattle Biomedical Research Institute's (SBRI) investigation of the impact of an innovative science immersion program called the BioQuest Academy (BQA). The investigation builds upon a 2-year pilot program to amplify prior success with 58 participating 11th-grade high school students from socio-economically and ethnically-varied Washington state communities. The research project will expand best practices for a science immersion program with a biomedical focus; deliver new print and online resources for a local and national audience; and provide direct benefits for the 180 participating teens from a spectrum of communities. The goal of the program is to provide young adults who demonstrate an interest in science with access to authentic biomedical research, thereby promoting confidence and skills early in their scientific career. The pilot BQA addresses the published concerns regarding national trends in science, and the mounting anxiety regarding the lack of real world, career-preparative experiences for youth. The proposed investigation responds to published recommendations for after-school programs, and the desires most frequently expressed by pilot BQA graduates for longer sessions and enduring contact with SBRI. Most importantly, the pilot BQA will foster science career interest. SBRI is poised to take a significant role in increasing public understanding of how the life sciences can have a direct, positive impact on human health, while furthering SBRI's mission to eliminate devastating infectious diseases through leadership in scientific discovery.


Texas A&M University System

College Station, TX

Science Promotion in Rural Middle Schools

Award: $1,351,569

Principal Investigator

Larry Johnson, Ph.D.
Email: LJOHNSON1@TAMU.EDU

Description:

Long-term goals are to develop, evaluate, and disseminate nationwide an engaging Rural Science Promotion Model that integrates biomedical sciences into middle schools to enhance understanding of the value and ethics of research and the clinical trial process. Research education and careers will be fostered through development of interactive curricula, professional development, and classroom visits from local veterinarians. Rural schools have a prevalence of environmentally-related and zoonotic diseases, difficulty in recruiting science teachers, and less interaction with scientific professionals who could influence their career choices. Middle school is the prime developmental period for social skills and academic competence. Information on the history of drug and medical device development and associated diseases will be integrated into science curricula and disseminated into rural (and other), underserved settings through veterinarians' school visits and follow-up lessons teachers present. Specific aims are to: 1) develop curricular materials (Veterinarians' Black Bags [VBBs] of hands-on and demonstrational materials, follow-up lessons, and pamphlets) directed at K-12 and the general public that support local veterinarians' visits into rural public middle schools to promote science, understanding of the clinical trial process, and responsible use of animals in research; 2) provide professional development for public school teachers (on how to present follow-up lessons), for veterinary students (course work elective on communication through outreach), and for veterinarians (continuing education training with public school communication strategies and streaming videos on how to present materials in the VBBs); and 3) promote the application of science and value of biomedical and clinical research by veterinary students and local veterinarians' visits into rural public middle schools. They will illustrate the use of scientific method in disease diagnosis, promote understanding of the problem-solving value of biomedical research funded by NIH to address animal and human health issues, and promote careers in science and biomedical fields. Phase I will develop the model of veterinarians in the public school classroom in Texas, and Phase II will disseminate the model and materials nationwide. Public understanding of the process and accomplishments of animal research for both animal and human health will be enhanced. Likewise, knowledge of the process by which drugs and medical devices (appliances) become approved and available for public use will be promoted. Through this unique, Rural Science Promotion Model, a larger number of underrepresented students throughout Texas and the nation will be encouraged to enter and remain in science academic tracks to better meet the nation's needed scientific and biomedical workforce.


University of Nebraska Lincoln

Lincoln, NE

World of Viruses

Award: $1,286,811

Principal Investigator

Judy Diamond, Ph.D.
Email: jdiamond1@unl.edu

Description:

The University of Nebraska State Museum, Soundprint Media Center, Inc. (SMCI), and the NIH/NCRR-funded Nebraska Center for Virology working with Carl Zimmer—a nationally recognized science writer—propose an integrated educational media initiative to teach the public about cutting-edge virology research. The project, called World of Viruses, will develop documentaries for public and satellite radio stations that are complemented with a sophisticated educational package for libraries, educators, and middle and high school students. Our goal is to educate the public about virology by: 1) conveying the importance of virology research and clinical trials to diverse people's health, communities, and environments; 2) creating partnerships between radio stations, virology researchers, public libraries, and educators to give the public access to community resources to learn more about virology; and 3) interesting the public—especially middle- and high-school aged youth—in virology careers. Radio shows will feature prominent virology researchers discussing their real-life work and experiences. The radio programs will be strategically complemented by an innovative informal learning package—one that blends standards- and inquiry-based learning with the latest information technologies. The foundation of this community-based outreach module is a digital package of high-resolution images, inquiry-based activities, podcasts, and files accessible via the Web. This includes readily downloadable, customizable materials for libraries to use as a special exhibit during the times stations broadcast the programs. Web accessibility also enables middle and high school students to directly download materials for integration into their projects and papers, and for educators to incorporate activities about viruses into their programs. This Web package also is designed to help public libraries work with 6–12 educators, and the project will provide assistance for stations and libraries to coordinate their efforts. The Public Library Association—with over 11,000 members—is a partner in this program, as are popular websites already used by middle and high school educators, including the University of California's Understanding Evolution website Link to external Website and All the Virology on the WWW Link to external Website.


University of Southern Maine

Portland, ME

Micro- and Nano-space Explorations of Health and Disease

Award: $1,341,840

Principal Investigator

Samuel Monroe Duboise, Ph.D.
Phone: 207-780-4377
Email: duboise@usm.maine.edu

Description:

The unseen world, both living and non-living, at the micro-scale and the nano-scale has inordinate importance for health and disease and is only made visible in detail through the appropriate tools of microscopy. In this project, University of Southern Maine (USM) faculty and staff with expertise in electron microscopy, microbiology, virology, and immunology team up with elementary and middle school education and outreach specialists and the staff of USM's Southworth Planetarium to reveal these vast, but usually invisible, micro-space/nano-space worlds to students in grades 3-8 and to K-12 teachers—ultimately reaching out to students across Maine and the nation. During Phase I, the project staff will direct students in the use of USM microscopy resources, including a high-powered microscope in the principal investigator's own lab: a new Tecnai BioTwin fully digital transmission electron microscope with advanced tomography capabilities. In the first one to three years of the project, biomedical sciences faculty and staff, K-12 participants, and the staff of USM's Southworth Planetarium will collaborate on curriculum materials and will produce visual resources for educational outreach. Phase II of the project will focus on dissemination of curricula and other products of the project, while expanding outreach efforts throughout Maine and integrating the academic year programs for K-12 teachers into the academic offerings of the Department of Applied Medical Sciences.


Vanderbilt University

Nashville, TN

School for Science and Math at Vanderbilt

Award: $788,848

Principal Investigator

Virginia L. Shepherd, Ph.D.
Email: VIRGINIA.L.SHEPHERD@VANDERBILT.EDU

Description:

The School for Science and Math at Vanderbilt will be a joint Vanderbilt University Medical Center and Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools venture, linking the expertise of the university to highly capable students in grades 9-12. The curriculum will focus on interdisciplinary science and the development of critical thinking skills and methods of inquiry necessary to conduct scientific research. Admission to the program will be based on grades, standardized test scores, recommendations, interviews, written statements, and projects. The school will also seek the "uncommon scholar." Students will attend the school one day per week on the Vanderbilt campus while continuing their traditional education at their zoned school during the academic year. Scientists and scientists-in-training will work together with students to create a strong scientific learning community. Dedicated Ph.D. instructors will form the faculty core, while Vanderbilt research faculty will provide mentorship in research internships and instruction in advanced electives. An adjunct teaching corps of postdoctoral fellows, advanced graduate students, and retired scientists will generate complementary instruction. One-day coursework will consist of core lessons, laboratories, and enrichment, including site visits, seminars, journal clubs, and interactive videoconferences to integrate content across an interdisciplinary, sequential curriculum. Summer research projects will grow from team to independent work, culminating with their centerpiece summer research internship following 11th grade. Students will work intensively with faculty scientist mentors to carry out independent research projects, while attending supplemental breakout sessions with the adjunct postdoctoral corps. As seniors, students will submit to national science competitions and journals. They also will translate their research into community outreach projects. Formative and summative evaluation of the school will be completed by external evaluators. The establishment of this school will contribute highly qualified scholars into the academic science pipeline, advance the scientific professional workforce, and produce citizens who are well informed about science-related policies and issues.


Walter Reed Army Institute of Research

Silver Spring, MD

Going to Middle and Early High School Classes with Near-Peer Mentors
Award: $1,338,078

Principal Investigator
Debra Yourick, Ph.D.
Email: debra.yourick@na.amedd.army.mil

Description:

The Walter Reed Army Institute of Research (WRAIR) has developed the concept of near-peer mentorship at the middle school/high school level and implemented it in a summer science education enhancement program called Gains in the Education of Mathematics and Science (GEMS). It is WRAIR's goal to take what is now seen as a Department of Defense "best practice" in science education and move it from its institute teaching laboratory home into disadvantaged schools and their laboratories or similar facilities. The current proposal would propel this program into an extensive, research institute-based source of undergraduate, near-peer mentors armed with kits, tools, teacher-student developed curricula, enthusiasm, and time and talent for science teaching in the urban District of Columbia Public Schools and selected rural schools. This program is a new in-school component to WRAIR's valuable summer science training modules and mentorship program. WRAIR's in-house program is at its maximum capacity in the teaching laboratory at the Institute. As illustrated by the work at the WRAIR through program evaluation, publications, and numerous white papers, youth from diverse population choose science, technology, engineering, and mathematics careers with increasing frequency after participating in developmentally appropriate, authentic experiences in the quantitative disciplines. This in-school extension will permit scientists to influence students and teachers in the schools during the academic year just as they have successfully done during summer internships.

This page last reviewed on February 21, 2017