The SBIR project will develop a web-based interactive digital media product for teachers and students in grades K-8. The digital media will take the form of multimodal content and digital tools that investigate the risks of exposure to hazards in the air, water, food supply, and in consumer products?especially those that disproportionately affect the nation's 23 million low- income and English Learner students and are relevant to their homes and geographies. The product will employ a unique multimodal, language-based approach to teaching environmental health literacy that aligns with the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) 3-D learning model. The long-term objectives will be to dramatically improve environmental health literacy, increase awareness of exposure risks, and to promote risk-avoidance behaviors.
The specific aims for Phase I will be to demonstrate technical feasibility using an initial set of content at four grade levels, to develop a new digital science notebook technology to support the NGSS practices, to test the feasibility of classroom implementation and potential learning outcomes, and to collect measurable indicators of commercial success. The initial set of content will include units on air, water, food, and consumer product hazards. Phase I research will test feasibility in a three-stage study: (1) expert and teacher review, (2) usability lab testing, and (3) classroom pilot testing with classes across four grade levels over an 8-week period at a diverse K-8 inner city school in an NGSS adoption state. Investigators will use a combination of direct observation, usage data collected by the prototype, and structured interviews with teachers and experts to answer the key research questions. Phase II will include an RCT efficacy study. The new product will use a novel teaching method that integrates the four language domains (listening, speaking, reading and writing) with inquiry-based, NGSS-aligned investigation of scientific phenomena relevant to the targeted hazards, such as exposure to lead, mold, food contaminants, or nanoparticles. Preliminary data from National Science Foundation-sponsored research indicate that this approach can be highly effective, tripling the rate of learning new science concepts among elementary students. This will be the first project to ever apply the new method and supporting technologies to environmental health literacy. The proposed product has strong commercial potential because it will be integrated and interoperable with a broader product line that is targeted to the company's base of leading K-12 school district customers. !1

Public Health Relevance

The SBIR project aims to enhance health, lengthen life, and reduce illness and disabilities among children in grades K-8, especially low-income, English Learner and minority students, by dramatically improving their knowledge and awareness of environmental health hazards and by promoting behaviors that can mitigate or avoid them. The project will introduce a new language- based teaching approach and interactive digital media product into schools that has the potential for broad adoption because it aligns to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and tailors to each school district curriculum, even customizing to specific geographies. If the innovation proves effective and scalable, it could potentially serve broader audiences such as families, educators, caregivers, social workers, and public health professionals. !1

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS)
Small Business Innovation Research Grants (SBIR) - Phase I (R43)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZES1)
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Shaughnessy, Daniel
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Speak Agent, Inc.
United States
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