K-12 Education: Education for Community Genomic Awareness

The Center received a $1,246,202 5-year National Center for Research Resources (NIH) Science Education Partnership Award to further student and community understanding of genomics and awareness of the potential applications of genomic research to improve population health and reduce health disparities. This project, funded from April 2006 to March 2012, entitled Education for Community Genomic Awareness, allowed CPHCG to expand its activities related to integrating information on genomics and public health into K-12 education. A new curriculum addressed molecular genetics (single gene focus) and genomics (focus on human genome and its interaction with environment) was developed and enacted in five high schools in Detroit and three high schools in Flint.

Paralleling the curriculum activities in the schools were a series of activities engaging parents and other community members in the catchment areas served by the schools. The objectives of the community activities were to: engage the community in helping to shape the curriculum enacted in the schools to assure curriculum relevance to the lives of the students and their parents; improve the awareness and appreciation of the community of genomic science and research and its applications; strengthen student learning and interest in science through joint activities involving students working together with their parents and other community members; and tap into the expertise of community members related to the curriculum.

Materials developed in this project are found on the website Education for Community Genomic Awareness. This site is a resource for educators and community-based organizations interested in furthering the overall goal of genomic literacy. It contains curriculum materials and resources for a high school genomics curriculum, entitled "How SIMILAR or DIFFERENT are we?" Resources include PowerPoint presentations, sample student work, literacy strategies and science content support for teachers. The website also contains resources for community organizations that would like to partner with schools in this important work, such as descriptions of possible community sponsored events to support classroom activities and a handbook describing how to host these events. Through the resources available on this website, communities and schools can come together to strengthen science learning and increase students interest and knowledge around issues of genetics and health.

K-12 Education: A New Genomic Framework for Schools and Communities

The previous 5-year SEPA project, Education for Community Genomic Awareness (above),illuminated the importance for high school students to have a prior foundational framework in concepts of genetics, gene-environment relationships, evolution, and human health. Thus, a new project was developed to incorporate education on genomics and evolution in middle school curricula. This project titled, “A New Genomic Framework for Schools and Communities,” educates middle school students about genomics, evolution and human health through innovative and interactive ways that expand their learning in and outside of the classroom. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) recently awarded this project a $1,240,843 5-year Science Education Partnership Award (SEPA) to the Institution for Collaborative Research in Education, Assessment, and Teaching Environments (CREATE) for STEM at Michigan State University. This collaborative project works with the Center for Public Health and Community Genomics at the University of Michigan and the schools and communities of Detroit and Flint to develop a new generation of learning materials that blends formal classroom experiences with informal community learning opportunities for 7th and 8th graders, and their families.

Based on the latest research about teaching science from the National Research Council’s 2012 report, Framework for K-12 Science Education, certain core ideas were identified as central concepts that students must comprehend to understand biology. Pairing these core ideas in the classroom with engaging scientific and engineering practices allows students to apply the knowledge they learn and further their education of these core concepts. Informal community-based opportunities take the learning beyond the classroom walls and provide a unique way for students to learn in an engaging and interactive learning environment. This project partners with science and history museums, libraries, scientists, and community-based organizations in Detroit and Flint to develop this key feature of the project.

Through this project, students develop skills and interest in the STEM field that will promote them to pursue future careers in this field where major disparities exist. Women and minorities are underrepresented in STEM careers and closing this gap is important. With the majority of students in both the Detroit and Flint school systems being African American and Latino, this project addresses these disparities.

Biology and genetics have made great strides in medical and health issues within the last decade. By providing this essential framework for middle school students, students will be able to critically assess these developments around them and recognize the importance of multilevel reasoning behind issues in today’s society. It is important that children understand the importance of these concepts so as to make informed decisions in their lives. Therefore, this project hopes to further their learning and interest in this field so that the students of today can make an impact in the future.