The QUEST (Questioning, Understanding, Experiencing, and Scientific Thinking) project brings together researchers and a youth development agency, serving economically disadvantaged minority youth, in an innovative effort to engage elementary school aged minority children in science and address the national need to cultivate diversity in preparing the next generation to meet the biomedical, behavioral, and clinical research needs of the United States. This project is designed to capitalize on the inquisitiveness of children and their innate capacity as `natural investigators.' The overall goal is to enhance underserved elementary students' science-related competencies, to take advantage of opportunities that are interesting for them and relevant to their own health and wellness, to motivate interest in science and health-related science careers, and nurture astute young consumers of science who have acquired the skills to learn about science inside and outside the classroom. This will be accomplished by developing and implementing a curriculum that starts with encouraging the science practice of asking questions and will focus on the methods that allow children to answer those questions in a learning environment that engages and stimulates them. The specific objectives are 1) to develop a rich curriculum for 2nd-5th graders that promotes science-related competencies and motivates interest in science and in health and wellness; 2) to increase students' knowledge of science methods, improve their self-efficacy in learning science, stimulate curiosity, and increase awareness of and interest in science and health career pathways; 3) to investigate in a randomized controlled trial the extent that strategies designed to enhance science engagement and competencies by promoting asking questions contribute to gains in elementary school students' knowledge of scientific concepts and methods, self-efficacy, curiosity, and interest in science; and 4) to broadly disseminate the evaluated program results and research findings to the global community of health researchers, informal science educators and formal science educators, and the K-12 research community. The evaluation plan will document the impact of the QUEST curriculum. The rigorous randomized controlled trial will provide insight into strategies that best address the science education needs of underrepresented minority children in their science and health-related quests.
The underrepresentation of African-Americans, Hispanics, and Haitians in the biomedical, behavioral, and clinical research workforce is of public health concern as evidence points to its contribution to health disparities in their communities. A diverse workforce is believed to promote access to care as well as better patient- provider communication, relationships, and satisfaction. This project is designed to stimulate interest in science and motivate interest in health-related careers in minority youth by making science personally relevant and by emphasizing health and wellness issues.