This application addresses broad Challenge Area (12): Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Education (STEM) and specific Challenge Topic, 12-OD-104: Innovative approaches to STEM education. Title of project: Promoting genetic literacy in students and teachers: The effectiveness of non-classroom instructional strategies and settings Rapid advancements in genetic technology, the popularity and coverage of genetics by the press, and the increased understanding of the role genetics plays in our health necessitates a basic understanding of the science for everyone. In spite of this increased exposure to genetics, a study by Bowling (2008) indicated that the public's genetics literacy remains relatively low. Studies looking specifically at the genetics knowledge of students in grades K-12 also show low levels of understanding. The 2000 National Assessment of Educational Progress tested ~ 49,000 students and on average only ~30% of 12th graders could answer basic genetic questions correctly. This project proposes that the use of authentic patient scenarios and modern equipment in a non-traditional classroom setting makes science instruction relevant and more interesting to students. The intent is to improve genetic literacy and to ignite students'interest for continued education in the life sciences and ultimately, the workforce. The Greenwood Genetic Center (GGC) proposes multiple objectives to promoting genetic literacy: 1. Open a Genetics Learning Center on the main campus with a full offering of validated instructional modules in the areas of cytogenetics, biochemical genetics, molecular genetics, dysmorphology, and bioethics. The Learning Center will host high school biology classes for half or full day learning experiences. Existing modules are case studies of human disorders requiring students to analyze the scenario, define a list of differential diagnoses, perform laboratory testing, analyze test results, determine a diagnosis, identify any available treatment, and discuss ethical concerns. 2. Offer a course in human genetics for high school students. This course will introduce students to the basic principles of genetics, to traditional and non-traditional patterns of inheritance, to contemporary topics and ethical issues, and to technology in the laboratory. The course will include didactic instruction, case studies, and laboratory exercises. 3. Continue the Center's program of summer courses in human genetics for high school science teachers but in a new laboratory/classroom environment that allows for more activities. Evaluations from previous summer courses indicate a desire and need for more laboratory exercises. 4. Provide these same instructional modules to more distant areas of South Carolina through a Mobile Genetics Learning Center. The instructional modules are practical, different yet current, and allow students to experience the application of science content to health issues. . Our hypothesis is that the use of authentic patient scenarios in genetics and laboratory testing in nonclassroom environments will lead to increased student understanding of genetics, interest in healthcare careers and post-secondary studies. The availability of both an on-campus learning center and a mobile learning center will serve to strengthen the genetic literacy of students and teachers throughout the state of South Carolina. Public Health Relevance: The field of genetics is emerging as a key player in healthcare, public policy making, and social issues;there is an increasing need for public understanding of genetics. Genetic knowledge should no longer be restricted to science halls and laboratories. Through the use of both an on-site learning center and a mobile genetics learning center, this project will make genetics education a state-wide effort. If people hope to make informed healthcare decisions and to understand risks, if students hope to hold high-tech jobs and if teachers hope to prepare students for today's job market, then it is necessary to educate everyone about genetics and its integration into our social fabric.

Public Health Relevance

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National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI)
NIH Challenge Grants and Partnerships Program (RC1)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZRG1-CB-J (58))
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Boyer, Joy
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Greenwood Genetic Center
United States
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