Our understanding is advancing rapidly of brain function;the interplay of genes and environment;the impacts of alcohol, nicotine, other drugs and environmental toxins on the brain;and neurodevelopment and aging. Yet, today's students are ill equipped to apply this new knowledge to improve their own lives or those of their peers or families. Baylor College of Medicine and project partners will develop, evaluate and disseminate new science and health teaching resources for elementary school audiences, focused on emerging areas in neuroscience aligned with the NIH Blueprint for Neuroscience Research. The project will target grades K-5, because 1) few up-to-date, neuroscience teaching materials are available for these grades, and 2) early grades are critical in the development of healthy behaviors and skills to enable future access to science careers. We build on successful NIH-funded curriculum projects, including a middle school initiative focused on neuroscience and an elementary model for integrating environment, health and reading. The project will be evaluated in schools with high enrollments of underrepresented minority and economically disadvantaged students.
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 development of three neuroscience supplementary curriculum modules, designed to provide 3-6 weeks of inquiry-based instruction in school or informal learning settings, with connections to reading/language arts;2) successively field test each curriculum module and supporting materials, in collaboration with project partners, 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 teacher professional development resource;and 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. The project has potential to reach 1.7 million teachers and more than 19 million students in grades K-5. All aspects of the project will be evaluated, both formatively and summatively, to gauge the quality and effectiveness with which project components are delivered and implemented, and 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 neuroscience research. Proposed activities will engage elementary school audiences in educational activities that have potential to improve science and health learning among underrepresented and economically disadvantaged students, and to promote their interest in and preparedness for biomedical careers.