Baylor College of Medicine (BCM), the North Forest Independent School District (NFISD), and the Harris County Department of Education (HCDE) propose to use environmental health science as an integrated context for learning in six highly disadvantaged, inner city elementary schools. The proposed project, The Environment as a Context for Opportunities in Schools (ECOS), will use the NIEHS-funded, interdisciplinary My Health My World educational program (which was developed at BCM) as the backbone of a comprehensive curriculum that integrates science, health, reading/language arts, mathematics, and social studies. Initially, ECOS will impact more than 3,900 students and 180 teachers in six NFISD elementary schools (grades K-4). However, the aim is to produce and evaluate a scalable and replicable model for integrating environmental health sciences content across the elementary curriculum that can be applied in many different settings. Project activities will involve partnerships among researchers, educators, parents, community members, and administrators.
The specific aims are to (1) collaboratively design, implement, and evaluate an instructional program for all six North Forest elementary schools that integrates science, health, reading/language arts, mathematics, and social studies around environmental health science themes, while promoting academic achievement through development of student content knowledge and skills, especially related to problem-solving and critical thinking; (2) improve teacher practice through intensive summer and year-round professional development on content and teaching strategies related to the proposed instructional program and encouragement of team work, reflection, collegiality, and self-assessment; (3) support school-wide reform of teaching and learning through workshops and collaborative activities (such as science festivals) involving teachers, parents, administrators, and community members; (4) implement rigorous, hypothesis-driven evaluation strategies that examine student content knowledge and problem-solving skills, student attitudes, teacher development (particularly factors contributing to the development of expert versus novice teachers), and whole-school reform; and (5) disseminate the curricular/instructional model, evaluation instruments and methodologies, and other research findings to schools in Houston, Texas, and throughout the nation and to community stakeholders using multiple strategies.
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