Advances in genetics and genomics may offer previously unimaginable solutions to worldwide challenges related to food production, protection of the environment, energy production and improvement of human health. Yet many students and adults lack fundamental understandings necessary to find and apply genetics and genomics information in a health context. In addition, many middle and high school students do not have school learning experiences that develop science and health literacy, or that build interest in related careers. To help address these educational disparities and challenges, Gene U will develop, evaluate and disseminate new science and health teaching resources for middle and early high school audiences--focused on emerging areas in genetics and genomics. Examples of topics include: role of environment in modulating polygenic expression, importance of family history in understanding risk and disease susceptibility, significance and genetic variability of the microorganisms on and within the human body, and how genetics research is advancing neurobiology understanding. Ethical considerations and biomedical processes for basic, clinical and translational research will be woven throughout the teaching resources. The project teams Baylor College of Medicine and Emory University with local education agencies, and includes collaborators with a wide range of educational and scientific expertise. The program model will be implemented and evaluated in two different urban areas 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 develop three science and health inquiry supplementary curriculum modules, designed to provide 3-6 weeks of inquiry-based instruction;2) successively field test each curriculum module and supporting materials, in collaboration with project partners, in two large urban locations, 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 at the partner sites. 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 how genetics and genomics basic, clinical and translational research contributes to health. Proposed activities will engage middle and high 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.