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SEPA Project Descriptions, October 2009

Science Education Partnership Awards 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.


Arizona Science Center

Phoenix

Framing New Pathways to Medical Discovery for Families, Students and Teachers
Estimated Five-Year Award: $1.2 million

Principal Investigator
Laura W. Martin, Ph.D.
Email: lmartin@azscience.org

Description:

This project will introduce students aged 8 – 14 years, including underserved students; their teachers and families; and the general public to three biomedical research areas inspired by NIH's Roadmap for Medical Research: biological pathways, bioinformatics and nanomedicine. These areas are unfamiliar to many adults and are not introduced in science curricula. Using the metaphor of a hardware store (i.e., building materials, tools, parts, home repair projects), the project will introduce families, students and teachers to three ideas: 1) the body maintains and repairs itself at the molecular, cell, tissue, organ and system levels; 2) biomedical researchers are uncovering new complexities at the molecular level that can increase our understanding of how the body works; and 3) developments in nanomedicine can lead to discoveries and treatments. In a hardware store theater and workshop space and in a virtual hardware store, the project will develop and present demonstrations and basic- and intermediate-level labs (for second and sixth grade students or families); train museum staff and interns to present the programs; offer orientation workshops to teachers from Title I schools; develop a teacher's guide; conduct outreach in middle schools; engage scientists to talk about their work and help them communicate with the public; and create a manual of materials and activities for other science centers. The evaluation plan will include formative research on activities and assessment of how well repair metaphors facilitate understanding of clinical issues. A team of scientists, museum staff, science teachers, and biology and medical students will guide the development of education components.


Boston University Medical Campus

Boston

CityLab Promotes Understanding of Clinical Trials
Estimated Five-Year Award: $1.3 million

Principal Investigators
Carl Franzblau, Ph.D.
Email: franzbla@biochem.bumc.bu.edu

Peter Bergethon, M.D.
Email: prberget@bu.edu

Donald DeRosa, Ed.D.
Email: donder@bu.edu

Carla Romney, D.Sc.
Email: romney@bu.edu

Description:

The “CityLab Promotes Understanding of Clinical Trials” project will develop a curriculum supplement to explore sickle cell anemia from its molecular basis to a simulated clinical trial. The materials for students, their parents and members of the community will teach users about the biology of this disease and promote participation in clinical trials. This new curriculum supplement will include hands-on laboratory experiments and computer-generated simulations and expands one of CityLab's most successful curriculum supplements “The Mystery of the Crooked Cell.” Students will learn about the importance of testing a novel drug candidate, design and analyze data from a simulated clinical trial, and “mine” the data to draw conclusions. CityLab is an inquiry-based biotechnology laboratory program that began in 1991 and has two dedicated laboratories at Boston University School of Medicine. CityLab also pioneered the MobileLab, a mobile science laboratory, in 1998 and will use it to disseminate this new curriculum supplement. CityLab currently teaches its curriculum supplements to approximately 7,000 middle and high school students annually. An important goal of the program is to promote an appreciation for the importance of participation in clinical research and the significance of the data generated by such trials.


Children's National Medical Center

Washington

Being Me
Estimated Five-Year Award: $1.4 million

Principal Investigator
Naomi L. Luban, M.D.
Email: nluban@cnmc.org

Description:

Children's National Medical Center, the George Washington University Graduate School of Education and Human Development, District of Columbia Public Schools, and Prince George's County Public Schools, in collaboration with the National Children's Museum, will work together to develop “Being Me,” a five-year phase I/II SEPA project. The primary aim of the project is to develop a cross-educational, integrated, art-focused science curriculum for teachers, children and parents in a community where health care disparities and low literacy are barriers to gaining knowledge of ways to improve science literacy and health related behaviors. “Being Me” will be implemented at three elementary schools with six fourth-grade classes that serve low-income and low-literacy children and in hospital clinics and event spaces. It will offer novel, art-based, interactive projects to enhance the Full Option Science System (FOSS) curriculum for fourth-grade students. The “Being Me” exhibits and programming will cover five focus areas: asthma, injury prevention, obesity, sleep and sickle cell disease. Classroom curricula will include instructional units, Web-based activities, art projects linked to FOSS instructional units and activities developed with the National Children's Museum. Four hospital-based activities will further expand our program: 1) Dr. Bear's® Summer Training Institute, which will disseminate curricula and programs beyond the three pilot schools; 2) Dr. Bear's® Cubs Summer Science Experience for elementary school children; 3) Dr. Bear's® University, a mini-internship program designed to give participants an intimate experience of pediatric health care; and 4) Health and Science Nights at both Children's National Medical Center and the National Children's Museum.


Cornell University

Ithaca, N.Y.

ASSET: Advancing Secondary Science Education with Tetrahymena
Estimated Five-Year Award: $1.3 million

Principal Investigator
Theodore G. Clark, Ph.D.
Email: tgc3@cornell.edu

Description:

This project will develop and disseminate high school laboratory exercises that will stimulate hands-on, inquiry-based learning of fundamental biological concepts and foster critical thinking about the role of basic research in society. The exercises will be targeted toward schools serving rural and other underrepresented youth and will feature Tetrahymena thermophila, a safe, easily grown single-cell organism. Teaching modules will be made available through the NCRR-funded Tetrahymena Stock Center at Cornell University. Along with hands-on exercises, a cross-platform module suitable for high school social studies, civics, and biology courses will be developed to address the relationship between basic science, biotechnology, and society, using Tetrahymena as a focal point. The Stock Center will partner with the Cornell Institute for Biology Teachers and teachers in New York's southern tier to prepare, test and evaluate the modules. An external evaluator will be involved at all steps from development to dissemination of the modules. A dedicated website will encourage communication among geographically distant teachers, students, and scientists and allow posting of data obtained in the field research module. Teacher training and support will be provided through summer workshops. Training and evaluation sessions will provide opportunities for further interaction among project leaders and teachers. Because many of the school districts surrounding Cornell are in rural areas, the modules will be as self-contained as possible and will be supported by an equipment lending library established early in the project. The completed modules will be disseminated nationally through regional meetings and posting on educational websites, and module kits will be available online.


Montshire Museum of Science

Norwich, Vt.

Connecting Classrooms and Community with the Health Sciences
Estimated Five-Year Award: $780,000

Principal Investigator
Gregory DeFrancis, M.A.
Email: greg.defrancis@montshire.org

Description:

Montshire Museum of Science will develop an educational outreach program to teach students about key health issues via hands-on inquiry and self-directed investigations based on high-quality research. The program will serve students in grades 5 – 8 in rural Vermont and New Hampshire schools. Dartmouth researchers will collaborate with Montshire Museum's science educators to: 1) create four health education modules, each related to NIH-supported research being performed by faculty at Dartmouth Medical School; 2) connect with students and teachers; and 3) provide support for all aspects of the project. Professional development institutes for middle school health and science educators will provide content and instructional strategies to successfully implement health science lessons aligned with national and state standards. The curriculum materials developed for school-based programming will also create opportunities for broader public outreach; Montshire's educators will adapt them for family activities and presentations in the museum. The educational curriculum will provide all participants with information to help them make personal health decisions, raise their awareness of the ways that culture and media affect their choices about healthy behavior, expose them to interesting and relevant research taking place locally and increase their understanding of the diversity of health science careers and research processes. Thorough formative and summative evaluations will enable the project team to take an iterative approach to curriculum development and to provide the best possible learning experience for participants.


Northwestern University

Chicago

Science Club: Building a Science Community Partnership with the Boys and Girls Club
Estimated Five-Year Award: $1.4 million

Principal Investigator
Michael T. Kennedy, Ph.D.
Email: m-kennedy@northwestern.edu

Description:

Northwestern University will design, implement and evaluate an inquiry-based after-school science mentorship program for middle school youth, grades 5 – 8, developed in partnership with and located at the Robert R. McCormick Boys and Girls Club of Chicago. The long-range goal is to address the issues of youth disengagement, minority underrepresentation and poor scientific literacy by designing and supporting educational programs that engage youth in the challenge, promise and wonder of biomedical science. Specifically, the program aims to: 1) develop a mentorship-based model for community-centered youth biomedical science engagement using scientists-in-training as mentors; 2) select, tailor and implement a set of six themed, inquiry-based biomedical science activities leveraging existing NIH- and NSF-funded projects and supported by field trips, science fairs and scientific writing opportunities; 3) develop programmatic and intellectual linkages among the Boys and Girls Club of Chicago, Northwestern University, John T. McCutcheon Elementary School and other academic partners; and 4) evaluate, disseminate and expand the model of community-based outreach. In addition to addressing the acute need for youth- and adult-based biomedical science engagement, our community- and mentor-based approach will serve as a model for future science engagement programs involving middle school youth, their families and academic-community partnerships.


Purdue University

West Lafayette, Ind.

Fat Dogs and Coughing Horses: Animal Contributions Toward a Healthier Citizenry
Estimated Five-Year Award: $1.3 million

Principal Investigators
Timothy L. Ratliff, Ph.D.
Email: tlratliff@purdue.edu

Sandra F. Amass, D.V.M., M.S., Ph.D.
Email: amasss@purdue.edu

Description:

This cooperative effort among Purdue University, public schools in Indiana and The Children's Museum of Indianapolis aims to develop, evaluate and disseminate educational programs for K – 12 students, parents, teachers and the public about the science involved in keeping people healthy. Obesity prevention, cancer prevention and asthma will be emphasized. Fitness programs, research programs using animal models, K – 12 outreach programs, professional development workshops and recruiting efforts will be networked to fill gaps in health science education, interest schoolchildren in health science research and improve public health. This project will develop and rigorously assess curricular modules for grades three, six and nine. The science behind health advances, the clinical trials process and the role of animals in developing drugs and medical devices will be addressed. In addition, the project will engage schoolchildren in becoming health science researchers by providing them with role models. Researchers will interact with K – 12 students during classroom visits, camps and after-school programs. Finally, the project will involve and engage children, parents and the public in educational fitness activities and programs. Dogs will be incorporated into fitness programs as exercise companions. The program includes an interactive traveling exhibit, highlighting the science involved in keeping people healthy.


Stanford University

Stanford, Calif.

The Stanford SEPA Project
Estimated Five-Year Award: $1.3 million

Principal Investigator
Marilyn A. Winkleby, Ph.D., M.P.H.
Email: winkleby@stanford.edu

Description:

Most U.S. programs developed to enhance the academic success of low-income and/or underrepresented minority (URM) students in the health sciences have focused on students who have completed post-secondary education rather than high school students. Almost none have evaluated long-term college and career outcomes or offered public health investigations relevant to low-income communities. To address these gaps, the Stanford SEPA Project will bring together an NIH-funded public health research program on health disparities and the Stanford Medical Youth Science Program (SMYSP), which offers science education programs for low-income and URM high school students, to promote the participation of these students in science activities and health disparities research relevant to their communities. As these students enter science and health careers, their knowledge and leadership will enhance the health in low-income communities. The project staff will partner with high school teachers to produce science activities for students from rural and inner-city California communities. Curricular activities will be based on scientific inquiry and use the Cognitive Apprenticeship Model of Instruction, and students will observe and participate in activities in communities, schools, hospitals and laboratories. The project will: 1) assess the impact of SMYSP's university-based summer program; 2) develop best practices for high school teachers and post-secondary educators; 3) promote participation, near-peer mentoring and leadership among alumni from the university-based program; 4) develop, pilot test and implement a new health disparities curriculum; and 5) disseminate best practices and the health disparities curriculum to other school districts and post-secondary institutions.


Tufts University School of Medicine

Boston

A Collaborative Approach to Real-World Science in the Classroom
Estimated Five-Year Award: $1.3 million

Principal Investigator
Karina F. Meiri, Ph.D.
Email: karina.meiri@tufts.edu

Description:

Engaging high school students in biomedical science is critical to educating a scientifically literate citizenry and increasing numbers of biomedical professionals. Studies that demonstrate adolescent disenchantment with "school" science show students' interest in "real-world" science remaining stable. The goal of this collaboration among Tufts University School of Medicine, the Sackler School of Graduate Biomedical Sciences at Tufts and three high schools (Madison Park Technical and Vocational High School, the Boston Latin Academy and the Boston Latin School) from Boston Public Schools, is, therefore, to engage 11th- and 12th-grade students who do not see the science of their real-world experiences mirrored in the classroom. The project will develop and disseminate an inquiry-based biology curriculum focused on current biomedical research in the context of five "great diseases" that challenge global health: infectious, neurological, cardiovascular, cancer and diabetes. Key to the project is aligning content and process in the classroom. The project's aims are: 1) to develop a learning community to guide the professional development underlying the five curricular modules; 2) to develop curricular content, including a syllabus and laboratory exercises, and deliverables for implementation of the curriculum; 3) to disseminate this material into Boston public schools and the broader educational community; and 4) to design and implement an evaluation strategy that allows ongoing revision during the project. The involvement of Tufts graduate and medical schools ensures that the program is sustainable, and the final goal is to establish it as a model of interaction between medical schools and school districts to improve understanding of the biomedical research underlying disease at the high school level.


University of California, Davis

Davis, Calif.

How Sure Are You? Science, Biostatistics and Cancer Education
Estimated Five-Year Award: $1.2 million

Principal Investigators
Marco Molinaro, Ph.D.
Email: mmolinaro@ucdavis.edu

Jodie A. Galosy, Ph.D.
Email: galosy@cbst.ucdavis.edu

Description:

This project will create Web-based teaching modules that will allow high school teachers and other educators to access cancer education resources they otherwise might not consider well matched to their curriculum. The modules will address national science, mathematics and health education standards, using strategies supported by research on teaching diverse learners. They will allow students to become knowledgeable about clinical trials, population disparities in cancer research and cancer prevention and to make evidence-based health decisions, and they will address underrepresentation in clinical trials and STEM careers. Students will gain: 1) understanding of cancer, population studies and clinical trials; 2) ability to design and present a valid scientific study; 3) ability to select and use appropriate statistical methods to analyze data; and 4) interest in science and STEM careers. The module topics include characteristics of distributions and community knowledge about cancer, randomization and clinical trials, causation versus correlation in cancer risks and screenings, and designing and analyzing cancer population studies. Each module will include hands-on lessons with challenging problems and data sets, an inquiry-based project, suggestions for extension activities, a performance-based assessment, a profile of an NIH-supported cancer scientist or biostatistician from a STEM underrepresented group who is doing work related to the topic, and links to other relevant resources. Modules will provide professional development for teachers by including the background and support necessary for effective teaching. Modules will undergo a national field test and be published via the SEPA website and promoted through national organizations of health, science and mathematics teachers.


University of Florida

Gainesville, Fla.

Biomedical Explorations: Bench to Bedside
Estimated Three-Year Award: $808,000

Principal Investigators
Mary Jo Koroly, Ph.D.
Email: korolymj@ufl.edu

Richard O. Snyder, Ph.D.
Email: snyderr@ufl.edu

Description:

This project will create and expand partnerships that connect researchers in interdisciplinary biomedical sciences with high school teachers to promote students' interest in and preparation for bioscience careers. This innovative program integrates experiences from a summer Institute into classroom action during the school year. During the Institute, an experimental sequence in basic science and clinical and applied research environments will illustrate scientific content, pedagogical methods, career options and conceptual and technological interrelationships within translational research. Teachers will work with science and education researchers to develop lessons and laboratory exercises that convey the principles of translational research and drug development in the context of career pathways. Action research proposals, resources, presentations, review of classroom outcomes and incentives for ongoing professional development will provide continuing support and encouragement for teachers to incorporate scientific processes, real-world skills and enthusiasm for bioscience careers into schools in rural and economically disadvantaged settings. The project supports science teachers with opportunities for personal enrichment and professional advancement in biosciences education and empowers them as agents of change in classrooms. It draws on all major components of medical and biotechnology research and education at the University of Florida to further the recruitment, education and certification of high school teachers, especially those from rural and underserved communities. The structural components of the model will be transportable to research institutions seeking to adapt their disciplinary strengths, through school partnerships, to improve science teaching and learning and to deepen student preparation for — and excitement about — science, engineering and technical careers.


University of Illinois at Urbana – Champaign

Champaign, Ill.

Project NEURON (Novel Education for Understanding Research on Neuroscience)
Estimated Five-Year Award: $1.3 million

Principal Investigator
Barbara Hug, Ph.D.
Email: bhug@uiuc.edu

Description:

“Project NEURON (Novel Education for Understanding Research On Neuroscience)” will bring together scientists, science educators, teachers and students to develop and disseminate curriculum materials that connect frontier science with national and state science standards. The wide-ranging research at the University of Illinois at Urbana – Champaign will allow Project NEURON to link NIH-funded neuroscience research with educational research that examines how teachers and students learn. Project NEURON will also help teachers integrate the newly developed materials into existing state curriculum frameworks. Project NEURON will a) develop and disseminate curriculum modules for use in secondary science classrooms; b) improve instructional practices of secondary science teachers; and c) improve student engagement and learning of key science concepts. In addition to developing curriculum modules, the project will 1) create an ongoing series of professional development opportunities for teachers and graduate students; 2) perform a formative and summative evaluation; and 3) provide a dissemination mechanism for the modules, including presentations at science and science education conferences and article submissions to peer-reviewed journals.


University of Minnesota Twin Cities

Minneapolis

BRAIN (Bringing Resources, Activities and Inquiry in Neuroscience) to High Schools
Estimated Five-Year Award: $1.4 million

Principal Investigator
Janet M. Dubinsky, Ph.D.
Email: dubin001@umn.edu

Description:

The University of Minnesota will work with the St. Paul Public Schools and Anoka-Hennepin School District to develop, implement, evaluate and disseminate a model high school biomedical science education program, combining neuroscience and inquiry-based instruction. The project will combine university expertise with that of district coaches. It will develop a two-year sequence of summer institutes (called BrainU 101 and BrainU 202) for high school science teachers and district coaches from the two largest school districts in Minnesota. The 2004 Minnesota Science Standards for grades nine – 12 require an understanding of how the nervous system maintains homeostasis. Thus, the content focus of the institutes will be neuroscience, including cognition, learning, emotions, the clinical trial process and how the autonomic nervous system regulates homeostasis, with an emphasis on inquiry pedagogy. The program will expand a model for training middle school science teachers. It will investigate how this in-depth teacher neuroscience and inquiry training affect student learning. A quasi-experimental design will compare teacher and student knowledge and attitudes and the use of inquiry practices. Participating teachers and their classrooms will be compared before and after attending the institutes. They also will be compared to non-participating, within-district biology teachers and their classrooms. In addition, the project will compare standardized student scores on the MN MCA-II Science test from participating and non-participating high schools, matched for socioeconomic variables. District coaches who participate in the training and in-service follow-up will be trained to assume leadership roles to maintain the content and pedagogy within their districts.


University of South Carolina

Columbia, S.C.

SCienceLab
Estimated Two-Year Award: $536,000

Principal Investigator
Bert Ely, Ph.D.
Email: ely@sc.edu

Description:

The U.S. is experiencing a shortage of students choosing a career in biomedical research, and minority students are less likely to pursue a career in research than their peers. Often, students are not aware that such a career is an option. To address this problem, “SCienceLab” provides an opportunity for middle and high school students to spend a day experiencing research and interacting with students who work in a biomedical research laboratory. Science teachers bring their classes to the University of South Carolina to participate in a laboratory experience taught by a science faculty member and his or her laboratory staff. The students participate in state-of-the-art experiments and learn how the techniques they learn are used in the professor's biomedical research. The students interact with the faculty member and staff in an informal setting. In the last two years, requests for “SCienceLab” participation have come from all over the state, and more than half of the requests have been denied due to space and personnel limitations. To accommodate the demand for “SCienceLab” participation, additional sites will be established at other South Carolina universities. In addition, the program will develop teacher training programs and experimental kits that can be borrowed from the sites so that teachers can perform “SCienceLab” activities in their classrooms. The additional sites will more than double the number of students who can obtain a “SCienceLab” experience. The teacher training and kit lending programs provide unlimited potential to enhance middle and high school biology and chemistry courses throughout South Carolina.


The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio

San Antonio, Texas

Positively Aging: Maximizing the Healthspan
Estimated Five-Year Award: $1.4 million

Principal Investigator
Michael J. Lichtenstein, M.D.
Email: lichtenstei@uthscsa.edu

Description:

Maintaining a healthy life starts in childhood, and students must learn the scientific evidence for choices that increase their chances of sustaining physical and mental independence. This project will improve science, math and health education in grades six – eight by teaching students new health information to extend and improve their lives. The project also will improve students' attitudes toward science, which may promote interest in science, research and medical careers. The project team developed a teacher professional development program focused on maximizing the healthspan. The project's aims are to: 1) develop educational materials based on NIH-funded research on the biology of aging, homeostasis, allostasis, and optimizing the quantity and quality of healthy life; 2) create and evaluate an intensive, multi-dimensional model that assesses middle school teacher professional development; 3) evaluate the effectiveness of the teacher professional development program in changing students' attitudes toward science; and 4) disseminate the curriculum through a website, teacher workshops, presentations at meetings, publications in journals and community engagement through the CTSA consortium. The program will improve teachers' knowledge, skills and confidence levels, ultimately affecting their students. Its interdisciplinary partnership matches Barshop Institute for Longevity and Aging Studies scientists at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio with middle school educators from San Antonio school districts that serve predominantly economically-disadvantaged Mexican-American populations. This partnership will produce freely available instructional materials that improve math and science education quality in public schools and promote understanding of behaviors that reduce disease risk.


University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee

Milwaukee, Wis.

Biology-Environmental Health Science Nexus: Inquiry, Content and Communication
Estimated Five-Year Award: $1.4 million*

*This award reflects funding support from the National Institutes of Environmental Health Sciences.

Principal Investigator
David. H. Petering, Ph.D.
Email: petering@uwm.edu

Description:

“Biology-Environmental Health Science Nexus: Inquiry, Content and Communication” focuses on high school general science and biology teachers and students in metropolitan Milwaukee, particularly minority students in the Milwaukee Public School District. The objective of this project is to increase the number of students with effective life science literacy and ambitions to undertake biomedical careers. A series of fully developed and supported experiment modules based on content recommended by the National Science Education Standards will be used to teach ninth-grade general science and 10th-grade biology content. The modules will offer teachers and students multiple encounters with authentic scientific inquiry. In addition, information on student communication about the experiments within and between classes, writing and publishing research communications and reports, and participation in an annual research conference will be integrated into the module content. Teachers will gain professional development through workshops, yearly scientific and educational support, evaluation activities and feedback, and completing program activities that enhance their abilities as scientists and science mentors for their students.


Virginia Tech

Blacksburg, Va.

Building an Infrastructure for Research Collaborations
Estimated Five-Year Award: $1.3 million

Principal Investigator
Erin L. Dolan, Ph.D.
Email: edolan@vt.edu

Description:

“Building and Infrastructure for Research Collaborations” will engage lower-achieving high school students in designing and conducting novel experiments that are of interest to the biomedical community, increase the scientific acumen of students and build the capacity of teachers and scientists across the country to mentor students in scientific investigation. This project builds upon the Partnership for Research and Education in Plants (PREP), which fosters research collaborations among high school biology students, their teachers and scientists. Scientists provide seeds from wild-type and mutant (with a disabled gene)Arabidopsis thaliana plants, and teachers and students work to elucidate the function of the disabled gene. PREP has established collaborations between teachers and scientists that have involved more than 12,000 students, and it has enhanced student knowledge about genetics, plant biology and scientific inquiry. Yet, PREP has faced challenges in engaging students in rural schools and general (i.e., not honors or advanced) classes and in ensuring students are reasoning in-depth as they design and conduct their research. This project will enable students and teachers in rural areas to collaborate with distant scientists, engage students in general biology classes, enhance students' scientific reasoning skills, and develop the capacity of teachers and scientists to mentor students in research. The following will be developed, disseminated and evaluated: 1) new Pre-PREP and Reasoning in Research curricula; 2) new professional development experiences for teachers and scientists; and 3) new collaboration strategies in the form of virtual interactions and intensive teacher-scientist partnerships. Students will conduct quasi-experimental studies to determine the impacts of different project components (i.e., curricula and collaboration strategies) and determine if there are synergistic effects from combining them.

This page last reviewed on February 21, 2017