Chronic exposure to potentially-toxic environmental chemicals is an increasing problem, with bioaccumulation of many pollutants, such as heavy metals and persistent organics, playing a significant role in cardiovascular disease, cancer, obesity, and hypertension. While no easy fix exists to protect against environmental toxins, current biomedical research is revealing nutrition to be an essential factor in intervention and prevention of disease related to toxic exposure. The goal of Fighting with Food: Battling Chemical Toxicity with Good Nutrition is to create, test, and assess middle and high school classroom instructional materials designed to bring the results of current biomedical research on nutrition and toxic exposure into the classroom, incorporate best STEM education practices, and lead to improved academic achievement and food choices. Fighting with Food results from an innovative collaboration of scientists conducting research on nutrition and toxic exposure, scientist educators, nutritionists, and middle and high school educators. The project aims are: 1) Develop 8-10 sets of middle and high school instructional materials that incorporate collaboration and inquiry to explore the topics of nutrition and exposure to toxic chemicals;2) Provide professional development and supporting materials to more than 400 teachers who will reach over 1200 students;3) Engage teachers and students in community outreach in support of improved nutrition;4) Conduct a research study to evaluate impact on student science learning, attitudes towards science and biomedical careers, and health perceptions and behavior;5: Expand public and professional awareness of the Fighting with Food materials. Year one will be devoted to materials development by a team of research scientists, scientist educators, nutritionists, and highly experienced teachers. For each topic, materials will include magazine-style readings;hands-on, inquiry-based chemistry investigations;summaries of current biomedical research;ethics scenarios;and classroom cooking/tasting experiences. Small-scale testing and expert review will prepare drafts for further testing in teacher professional development programming. In years two to five, professional development will include an intensive, year-long Institute for Classroom Research Partners, two-day Academies, and self-guided Online Courses. Each course will deliver scientific content, promote understanding of the scientific research process, and build pedagogical skill in context-based science education, structured collaboration, and guided inquiry. Institute teachers will serve as research partners, administering student evaluation instruments, completing teacher instruments, and providing documentation of project activity as requested. Extensive dissemination will include outreach by participating teachers though community events, continuing availability of the self- guided online course for teachers, and partnerships with media outlets.
The bioaccumulation of many pollutants, such as heavy metals and persistent organics, plays a significant role in cardiovascular disease, cancer, obesity, and hypertension. Current biomedical research is revealing good nutrition to be an essential factor in intervention and prevention of disease related to exposure to toxic chemicals. This project will bring these research results into hundreds of middle and high school classrooms in a format that empowers teachers and students to make informed personal choices about nutrition and exposure to toxic chemicals to support their health.