Environmental Health Science Education
Liam R. O'Fallon, M.A.
Program Description - Current Program
NIEHS has fostered partnerships for science education since 1993. The purpose of the science education projects has been to improve overall academic performance as well as enhance students' comprehension of and interest in environmental health sciences. These programs provided teachers with opportunities for professional development so that they can use the curricular materials effectively in the classroom. Grantees have developed many innovative and engaging, standards-based curricular materials. Following are the past and current programs supported by NIEHS with a focus on K-12 environmental health science education
Community Outreach and Engagement Program (COEP)
This program was established in 1995 as part of the Environmental Health Sciences Core Centers Program to translate the latest environmental health science research into tools and resources for a variety of audiences, including teachers and students. As such, one of its several key activities has been science education. To date, grantees have developed and disseminated a variety of educational materials for use in the classroom and at home. In a unique effort, three grantees worked in partnership with Environmental Health Perspectives to establish the EHP Student Edition. Grantees continue to leverage funding support from other public and private institutions to create new materials and then conduct educational outreach in classrooms across the country as part of their COEP activities. To learn more about COEP, please visit http://www.niehs.nih.gov/research/supported/dert/programs/core/coe/index.cfm.
Short Term Educational Experiences for Research (STEER) in the Environmental Health Sciences for Undergraduates and High School Students
An essential element of the NIEHS Strategic Plan is to recruit and train the next generation of environmental health scientists who will further the understanding of the impact of environmental exposures on human health. The NIEHS Short Term Educational Experiences for Research (STEER) in the Environmental Health Sciences program is designed to attract talented high school students and undergraduates to research opportunities in the environmental health sciences. The NIEHS supports eleven STEER programs with each program supporting between four and eight high school students and/or college undergraduates for full-time summer employment. STEER programs select student participants from their own pool of applicants. Students selected to participate by the various STEER programs will find themselves participating in both research projects with university faculty and educational experiences/seminars on health outcomes related to environmental exposures. Research projects cover a wide spectrum of exposures and scientific areas relevant to the mission of the NIEHS
Supplements to Promote High School Student & Undergraduate Research Experiences
The NIEHS offers an administrative supplement program available to NIEHS Principal Investigators with R01, R37, or P01 awards to support summer research experiences in the environmental health sciences for talented and gifted high school students and college undergraduates. The NIEHS hopes that by offering this introduction to environmental health science research to young, motivated high-school and undergraduate students that the NIEHS can both increase the number and elevate the credentials of the pool of applicants to graduate programs in the environmental health sciences. More information on this program can be found at http://www.niehs.nih.gov/careers/research/trainingfrom/supplements/student.cfm
Program Description - Background
NIEHS’s current initiatives in the area of environmental health science education were built on the success of three previous science education grant programs
Instructional Material Development (1993-1997)
Implemented in 1993, the Instructional Material Development program was the institute’s first extramural program for K-12 Environmental Health Science Education. The program supported the creation of instructional materials at all grade levels. The instructional materials that resulted from this program could be infused into existing curricula and used to develop challenging materials for students. Grantees used a variety of media, appropriate for the intended audience to address such topics as cell biology, toxicology, risk assessment, scientific process and methodology, and indoor and outdoor air pollution
Teacher Enhancement and Development (1995-1999)
This program supported projects to produce and implement teacher enhancement and development activities at the K-12 level. The goals of the program were to
- Enhance dissemination, utilization, and effective implementation of materials and curricula pertaining to environmental health science.
- Provide teachers with the disciplinary and pedagogical skills necessary for teaching environmental health science.
- Link researchers in environmental health science with teachers at the K-12 level. Grantees trained more than 7,500 teachers around the U.S. to incorporate environmental health science education into their classrooms.
Environmental Health Sciences as an Integrative Context for Learning (EHSIC) (2000-2008)
From 2000 to 2008, the EHSIC program fostered partnerships among environmental health scientists, educators, and state departments of education to develop standards-based curricular materials that integrate environmental health sciences within a variety of subject areas (e.g. geography, history, math, art). The purpose of the initiative was to improve overall academic performance as well as enhance students' comprehension of and interest in environmental health sciences
EHSIC grantees have created engaging materials for use in the classroom. To date, the nine grantees have created over 80 different lessons that can be used in grades pre-Kindergarten to 12th grade. Some materials are available on-line free of charge. Others must either be purchased or obtained by attending a teacher workshop. Evaluation of the nine projects has shown that students and teachers respond well to the integrative materials. A full listing of these integrative materials can be viewed on the NIEHS Science Education web page
Project summaries presented at past meetings and events as well as grantee publications, further illustrate the impact and contribution of this program.