Engaging students in the biomedical sciences while they are still in high school is a critical first step toward educating a scientifically literate citizenry as well as initiating the pipeline that will eventually result in increased numbers of biomedical and health related professionals. This proposal is a collaboration between biomedical scientists at Tufts University School of Medicine, biology teachers at the Madison Park Technical and Vocational High School, the Boston Latin Academy and the Boston Latin School, all inner city Boston public high schools, and members of the Wright Center for Innovation in Science Education, also at Tufts. Its goal is to engage the imagination of 11th and 12th grade students who do not see the science of their real world experiences mirrored in the classroom. It accomplishes this goal by developing and disseminating a novel inquiry-based high school biology curriculum that focuses on biomedical research in the context of five 'great diseases'that challenge global health - infectious, neurological, cardiovascular, cancer and diabetes. A key element of the proposal is addressing the challenge of aligning content and process in the classroom to enable teachers to create the knowledge-centered classrooms that are critical for learning transfer. Accordingly the first aim is to first develop a learning community that will interactively guide the in-depth professional development underlying each of the 5 curricular modules. The learning community will then collaborate on the second aim;to develop curricular content and to generate deliverables for implementation of the curriculum in the classroom. This material, which will include a syllabus and web-based virtual and real interactive inquiry-base laboratory exercises, will be disseminated into the Boston Public School system and the broader educational community as part of the third aim.
The fourth aim i s to design and implement an evaluation strategy that will allow for ongoing revision during the project to ensure optimization of outcomes. The involvement of Tufts medical and biomedical graduate schools ensures that the program is highly sustainable and our final goal is to establish it as a model of how medical schools and school districts can interact to disseminate understanding of the biomedical research underlying disease at the high school level.

Public Health Relevance

(provided by applicant): Disappointingly, even after significant efforts at pedagogical reform, research continues to document adolescents steadily losing interest in science throughout high school. The economic impact of this disenchantment is significant and the life science/biomedical sector is growing slowly due to lack of a qualified work force, particularly in mid-level jobs. There is some cause for optimism: the same studies that demonstrate adolescent disenchantment with 'school'science show their interest in 'real world'science remaining stable over the same time frame. We postulate that students will only become engaged and able to visualize themselves as science professionals when they see the science of their real world experiences mirrored in the classroom. We address this hypothesis by generating an innovative curriculum designed to capture adolescent imaginations by focusing on the cutting edge research underlying 5 'great diseases'that impact global public health. We design the curriculum using a learning community consisting of practitioners of science and teachers of science whose goal is to collaborate to generate the content knowledge that will facilitate learning transfer in a knowledge-centered classroom.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Center for Research Resources (NCRR)
Education Projects (R25)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZRR1-SEPA-6 (01))
Program Officer
Beck, Lawrence A
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Tufts University
Anatomy/Cell Biology
Schools of Medicine
United States
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Jacque, Berri; Malanson, Katherine; Bateman, Kathleen et al. (2013) The Great Diseases Project: a partnership between Tufts Medical School and the Boston public schools. Acad Med 88:620-5