People in the 21st century face ancient killers like Malaria, new deadly threats such as HIV/AIDS, and dramatic increases in autoimmune and allergic diseases. Solving these challenges will require an informed, scientifically literate general public and sufficient biomedical researchers with appropriate training. Currently the US is not on track to meet either of these needs. Science education problems begin in elementary school. Early experiences develop students'science interest and knowledge, and contribute to later success in science-related careers. But each year, many students, particularly from low-income and other disadvantaged groups, lose interest or fail in elementary school science-and never catch up afterward. To help address these educational disparities and challenges, Baylor College of Medicine (BCM) will lead the development, evaluation and dissemination of new science and health teaching resources for elementary school audiences to improve students'science learning experiences and career awareness using examples from infectious diseases and allergy research. The proposed materials would introduce science and health topics of high priority to NIAID into elementary school classrooms, while also helping to address national needs for high-quality, low-cost teaching resources and professional development. The project teams Baylor College of Medicine (BCM), the Harris County (Texas) Department of Education, and children's artist, T Lewis. The project will be evaluated in schools with high enrollments of underrepresented minority and economically disadvantaged students. Project specific aims are to: 1) Recruit and support a national team of teacher leaders, who will work together and with scientists, clinicians and educators to guide the development of three science and health inquiry supplementary curriculum modules (one each for grades K-1, 2-3 and 4-5), designed to provide 3-6 weeks of inquiry-based instruction, with connections to reading/language arts;2) Successively field test each curriculum module and supporting materials using a well-matched comparison group study design;3) Revise the modules and supporting materials based on field test outcomes;and develop web-based tools-such as forums, streaming video lesson demonstrations and downloadable teaching materials-to create a dynamic, web-based curricular and professional development resource for teachers;4) Disseminate the curriculum and related resources-lesson demonstrations, teacher professional development sessions, and student activities and materials-via the established, high traffic websites, BioEd Online (www.bioedonline.org) and K8 Science (www.k8science.org), and through other, more traditional pathways to reach national audiences with high quality, low-cost science teaching resources. All aspects of the project will be evaluated, both formatively and summatively, to gauge (1) the quality and effectiveness with which project components are delivered and implemented, and (2) the overall value of the experiences provided to teachers and students.
The project will advance public understanding of the significance of basic, clinical and translational research on infectious diseases and the immune system. Proposed activities will engage elementary school audiences in educational activities that have potential to improve science and health learning by underrepresented and economically disadvantaged students and to promote their interest and preparedness for biomedical careers.