Everyone desires to live a healthy life, free of disease and disability, for as long as possible. The period of optimal functioning is termed the 'healthspan,'and is a subset of each human's lifespan. Attaining and maintaining a healthy life starts in childhood and students must learn the scientific evidence for habits and choices that increase their chances of sustaining physical and mental independence throughout their lives. This Phase I and II SEPA application will create, evaluate, and disseminate novel teaching materials centered on the biology of aging and the scientific processes of homeostasis and allostasis to teach students about Maximizing the Healthspan. Through controlled studies, rigorous psychometric re-evaluations of science attitude instruments, and teacher observations, our team developed new evidence and is poised to test an intensive innovative Teacher Professional Development program with Maximizing the Healthspan as the gerontology focus. The core content of this proposal utilizes information from NIH-funded gerontologic basic, translational, and patient-oriented clinical research to create novel inquiry-based health promotion lessons that effectively teach science, math, and health principles at the middle school level. The proposal will utilize these materials in a controlled trial of teacher professional development and evaluate the impact the teachers have on student attitudes toward science. Our continually innovating interdisciplinary partnership matches Barshop Institute for Longevity and Aging Studies scientists at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio (UTHSCSA) with middle school educators from multiple school districts in San Antonio, TX. These districts serve predominantly economically disadvantaged Mexican-American populations. This partnership will produce freely available classroom-ready instructional materials that meet SEPA goals to (a) improve math and science education quality in public schools, and (b) promote understandings of behavior that reduce disease risk. To accomplish this, we set four specific aims:
(Aim A) Develop new educational materials based on NIH-funded research on the biology of aging, homeostasis, allostasis, and optimizing the quantity and quality of healthy life;
(Aim B) With Maximizing the Healthspan as content, utilize our educational partnerships to create and evaluate an intensive, novel, multi-dimensional model that qualitatively and quantitatively assesses middle school teacher professional development;
(Aim C) Conduct a controlled evaluation to assess the effectiveness of the Positively Aging(r) teacher professional development program on changing students'attitudes toward science as measured by two newly re-evaluated and shortened attitude scales: the Women in Science Scale-Revised (WiSS-R) and the Simpson-Troost Attitude Questionnaire-Revised (STAQ-R);
and (Aim D) Disseminate the curriculum through the Positively Aging(r) website, teacher workshops, presentations at educational and scientific meetings, publications in peer-reviewed journals, and community engagement through the national Clinical and Translational Science Award consortium.
This Positively Aging(r) proposal will improve science, math, and health education in grades 6-8 by teaching students new health information, based on current NIH supported research, to extend and improve their lives. A novel science teacher professional development program, created by the Positively Aging(r) team, will strive to improve teachers'knowledge, skills, and confidence levels, ultimately affecting their students. In addition, this proposal seeks to improve students'attitudes toward science which may promote career interest in science, research, and medicine.