New Haven, Conn. -- The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has announced that Yale's Peabody Museum of Natural History will receive a Science Education Partnership Award (SEPA) to immerse students in science, increase science literacy and encourage research careers.
The Yale initiative, led by Leonard Munstermann, senior research scientist in the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health in the School of Medicine, will design science curricula, targeting middle school students, to create a better understanding of the dynamics and biology of how disease is transmitted.
Yale will receive five years of support from the SEPA grant -- a total of $1.3 million of the $9.4 million SEPA fund. It will be administered by the National Center for Research Resources (NCRR), a component of the NIH.
"The curricula we design will feature Lyme disease and West Nile encephalitis because of their public health significance, and because they point to broader biological relationships," said Munstermann. "Yale University is also a major research center for these diseases and will provide scientific authority for the curriculum content."
Peabody Museum of Natural History at Yale will house the project, coordinated by museum educators Laura Fawcett and Terri Stern. The scientific component will draw on the relevant expertise from researchers at Yale School of Medicine.
In Phase I, investigators from the Yale School of Medicine and the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station--together with the Peabody Museum educators--will work with a select group of 10 science teachers from three urban public school districts to design curricula based on their joint resources. The product will include inquiry-based lesson plans, a teacher reference manual and student science kits. Researchers, graduate students and the museum will provide and organize laboratory demonstrations and specimens for hands-on activities.
Phase II will distribute the curricular resources developed in Phase I regionally and nationally. Participating classrooms will be connected electronically by the museum's videoconference facility for discussion and comparison of research projects. The project activities are expected to reach 5,850 students by the completion of Phase I in June 2008 and 11,400 students by the completion of Phase II in June 2010.
"By giving students the chance to participate in hands-on, inquiry-based research projects, we hope to demystify science and make it more accessible," said Barbara M. Alving, acting director of NCRR. "Through our SEPA program, we not only stimulate public interest in health issues, we also encourage young people to pursue careers in science."
Yale faculty participating in the project include Curtis Patton and Durland Fish of Epidemiology and Public Health, Erol Fikrig, Robert Schoen and Janine Evans of Internal Medicine, Eugene Shapiro of Pediatrics, Michael Donoghue of the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, and John Anderson and Theodore Andreadis from the nearby Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station.
SEPA programs serve K-12 students and teachers, as well as science centers and museums across the country. Many of the programs target underserved and/or minority populations that are less likely to pursue science careers. In addition, SEPA partnerships develop projects that educate the general public about health and disease, with the aim of helping people make better lifestyle choices as new medical advances emerge.