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 have provided teachers with opportunities for professional development so that they can learn to use the curricular materials effectively in the classroom. Grantees have developed many innovative and engaging standards-based curricular materials. Following are current programs supported by NIEHS that have a focus on K-12 environmental health science education.
Community Engagement Cores
Community Engagement Cores (CECs) are part of several NIEHS programs, such as the Environmental Health Sciences Core Centers Program, Superfund Research Program, Children’s Environmental Health and Disease Prevention Research Centers, and the Breast Cancer and the Environment Research Program. These CECs translate the latest environmental health science research into tools and resources for a variety of audiences, including teachers and students. As such, a key activity of these CECs is science education. Grantees develop and disseminate a variety of educational materials for use in the classroom, at home, and in the community.
- Climate Change and Health Event: University of North Carolina Chapel Hill grantees hosted a three-day climate change and health event as part of their year-long youth science enrichment program, the Climate Leadership and Energy Awareness Program (Climate LEAP). The event brought together 25 high school students from central North Carolina and New York City. Students met with researchers and learned about climate, energy, and community resilience.
- DNA/RNA Kits: Massachusetts Institute of Technology grantees developed DNA/RNA kits designed to teach molecular processes, in addition to DNA and RNA structure. Students can use the kits to learn about DNA replication, mRNA transcription, DNA damage, DNA mutation, DNA repair, and more.
- Community Science and Water Sampling: University of Cincinnati grantees partnered with schools and teachers in eastern Ohio to provide students in grades five through twelve with the opportunity to participate in community science. The grantees gave students water testing kits to analyze samples from regional lakes, streams, wells, and tap water. Using these kits, students can provide valuable information to their peers, community members, and researchers regarding water quality.
- Farm and Food Kids Camp: University of Kentucky grantees hosted a farm and food kids camp in Eastern Kentucky to promote healthy eating and physical activity in Appalachian communities.
- Resources for Educators: University of Washington grantees have developed curricula, classroom activities, and games for educators to use in their classrooms. These curricula include lessons on topics such as the environment, genetics, nutrition, personal choices, and environmental justice.
- Video on Empowering Youth: The Huntington Breast Cancer Action Coalition, in partnership with grantees at the Michigan State University Breast Cancer and the Environment Research Program, developed a video called, “Empowering Our Youth: Encouraging Guardians of the Future.” The video takes a closer look into how research-oriented scholarship programs can impact students, their families, and communities in the world of science.
- Environmental Health Curriculum in After-School Program: Texas A&M University grantees are working to provide a six-week environmental health curriculum to students at Furr High School in Houston during an after-school program called “Genius Time”. Grantees are working with partners at Texas Sea Grant to provide instruction and facilitate hands-on learning activities for students on topics including climate change and the relationship between exposure to chemicals in plastic and puberty. Grantees will also participate in the students’ visit to campus, and will show them how their experiences can be leveraged for the college application process.
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NIH Summer Research Experience Program
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. NIEHS awards NIH Summer Research Experience (SRE) program grants to eligible universities and institutions of higher education to provide research experiences for high school and college students and for science teachers during the summer academic break. The NIH SRE Program is designed to attract talented high school students and undergraduates to research opportunities and careers in environmental health sciences.
Small Business Innovative Research and Small Business Technology Transfer Programs
Through the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs, NIEHS supports small businesses in the development of innovative applications to translate and communicate environmental health research to improve public health. As part of these programs NIEHS encourages small businesses to work collaboratively with environmental health scientists to develop educational materials.
- Citizen Science and Air Pollution Monitoring: 2b Technologies, Inc. established GO3 Treks to engage students in a citizen science project that involves use of handheld air pollution monitors. Students design and conduct treks with the monitors, which includes measuring air pollutant concentrations as a function of altitude on a hike in the mountains or exploring variations throughout a city or town. The data are uploaded to the GO3 database and displayed on Google Earth as an interactive map for the students to analyze and comment on in a blog format.
- Science Take-Out Kits: University of Rochester grantees have developed Science Take-Out Kits for hands-on learning of environmental health topics. The activities do not require any special laboratory equipment and can be used in any educational setting.
- Learn more about the projects from the July 2017 PEPH webinar featuring presentations on Science Take-out Kits for Hands-On Learning and GO3 Treks.
Supplements to Promote High School Student and Undergraduate Research Experiences
NIEHS offers an administrative supplement program available to 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. By offering this introduction to environmental health science research to young, motivated high-school and undergraduate students, NIEHS hopes to both increase the number and elevate the credentials of the pool of applicants to graduate programs in the environmental health sciences.