Environmental Factor

April 2011

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NIEHS helps teachers learn how to teach science more effectively

By Matt Goad
April 2011

Sharon Beard

Beard welcomed teachers from across North Carolina to the latest NCABR workshop in the 2010-2011 "Prescription for Science Literacy" series and told them about NIEHS Worker Education and Training programs. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

Liam R. O'Fallon

O'Fallon told the teachers about what NIEHS can offer them and their students, including curriculum development, teacher training, and summer intern opportunities. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

left to right, Regina Williams, and Alista 'Cozzie' Watkins

Williams, left, and Alista "Cozzie" Watkins listened carefully to the presentations. Watkins teaches biomedical technology and medical science in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Phillip O. Berry Academy of Technology(http://schools.cms.k12.nc.us/phillipoberryHS/Pages/Default.aspx) Exit NIEHS. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

Teachers from across North Carolina gathered in Rodbell Auditorium Feb. 28 to draw on the resources of NIEHS to liven up their science lessons as part of the North Carolina Association for Biomedical Research (NCABR) "Prescription for Science Literacy" workshop.

Mary Grant, V.M.D., deputy chief of the NIEHS Comparative Medicine Branch, and Ericka Reid, Ph.D., NIEHS education outreach specialist, organized the workshop.

Workshop participants Sharon Beard, an industrial hygienist with the Worker Education and Training Program at NIEHS; Liam O'Fallon, a program analyst with the Susceptibility and Population Health Branch (SPHB) at NIEHS; and Regina Williams, program manager for NCABR(http://www.ncabr.org/) Exit NIEHS, gave opening remarks and an overview of the program for the day.

The teachers toured NIEHS animal facilities, following a presentation by Grant on the humane use of animals in environmental health research at NIEHS. Grant noted that 99 percent of the animals used for testing at NIEHS are rats and mice, and that strict regulations mandate humane conditions for the animals.

Cancer, cell biology, and the environment

Giving a presentation to the teachers on breast cancer and the environment was Les Reinlib, Ph.D., a health scientist administrator in SPHB. Reinlib explained that while genetics was long thought to be the driving force behind breast cancer, in recent years, two major studies have shifted that view to recognition of the important role played by environmental factors.

Michael Humble, Ph.D., a program administrator in the NIEHS Cellular, Organs, and Systems Pathobiology Branch, led the 29 teachers through several lesson plans involving cell biology and cancer, including exercises designed to teach about cancer and probability. In another exercise, the group was divided in half and charged with coming up with arguments for or against an imagined proposed law requiring people to cover 90 percent of their bodies when they are in the sun.

Practical knowledge

"I got a lot that I could use," said Margaret Raynor, a health occupation teacher at Clinton High School, singling out an exercise that used the flip of a coin and drawing of numbers to illustrate how several factors play into whether a person will get cancer.

Sue Ford, a biology and anatomy teacher at Rocky Mount High School, said the tour of the animal facilities gave her a new understanding of how many types of jobs were available to science students, an understanding that she plans to pass on to her students.

"Students don't learn about the opportunities that are available to them," Ford said.

The teachers received credit toward their continuing education and certification after completing the workshop.

(Matt Goad is a contract writer with the NIEHS Office of Communications and Public Liaison.)

Mary Grant, V.M.D.

Grant talked to the teachers about humane treatment of lab animals at NIEHS and the role of animal testing in environmental health research. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

center, Diane Forsythe, D.V.M.

Diane Forsythe, D.V.M., center, chief of the Comparative Medicine Branch of NIEHS, led teachers on a tour of the animal facilities. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

standing, Michael Humble, Ph.D.

Humble, standing, led teachers through a mock lesson on cell biology and cancer. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

left to right, Connie McElroy-Bacon and Ericka Reid, Ph.D.

Reid, center, consulted with Connie McElroy-Bacon of NCABR. Reid said she felt a lot of energy at the workshop, even late in the day. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

N.C. Association for Biomedical Research

NCABR is an organization dedicated to advancing all North Carolinians' appreciation for the benefits of bioscience research and careers.

It is a statewide nonprofit organization founded in 1989 by North Carolina's leading bioscience research institutions. Members include academia, industry, government, nonprofit research organizations and professional societies.

To date, more than 3,500 North Carolina K-12 teachers from 94 of the state's 100 counties have participated in NCABR's science education programs, more than 1,000 North Carolinians have attended an NCABR public forum to debate biomedical research issues, and dozens of members of the North Carolina and national media have attended an NCABR science journalism program.

The group's "Rx for Science Literacy"(http://www.ncabr.org/k12/workshops/) Exit NIEHS workshop series is free for teachers in grades K-12.

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