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Grantee Honored for Online Science Education Resources

By Bono Sen
May 2010

Moreno, above, spoke at NIEHS in July 2008 on "Environmental Health Partnerships to Improve Science Education" (see story( Her talk outlined the ways innovation and collaboration have sparked hands-on scientific inquiry across the curriculum in projects in Texas public schools. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

An NIEHS-funded project at Baylor College of Medicine (BCM) is enjoying high-profile recognition for its exceptional efforts to redefine science education for young learners.

The Houston-based project's principal investigator and editorial director, Nancy Moreno, Ph.D., recently accepted a Science Prize for Online Resources in Education (SPORE) - an award sponsored by Science magazine( Exit NIEHS and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)( Exit NIEHS to recognize outstanding projects from around the world that promote innovation and excellence in education and use of high-quality on-line resources by students, teachers and the public.

In its March 26 issue, Science highlighted an essay( Exit NIEHS by Moreno and Managing Editor Dianne B. Erdmann describing BCM's innovative web-based resources for elementary- and middle-school teachers, who face the daily challenge of incorporating accurate, timely scientific information into their existing curricula.

According to Moreno and Erdmann, the project is a cost-effective approach to providing open access to resources for a wide audience, "including all life-science teachers, undergraduate faculty, home-schooling families, and the general public." The project provides additional benefits for "schools with significant populations of economically disadvantaged and at-risk students, where teachers tend to be less prepared to teach science."

The integrated Web sites, BioEdOnline( Exit NIEHS and K8 Science( Exit NIEHS, enable instructors to learn about a topic, download a related lesson and watch a demonstration on how to teach the lesson. The sites also offer science content presentations, biology news, and downloadable Powerpoint slides with notes.

Redefining Science Education

Science education in America's kindergarten through middle-school classrooms is in need of major changes, according to a National Academies report. "Across classrooms everywhere, students are being told about science and asked to remember facts, but not being taught how to think scientifically," says Bruce Alberts, editor-in-chief of Science. The report points out that teachers need opportunities to learn how to teach science and students need help to become proficient in science, irrespective of inequities in learning opportunities and differences in teaching styles.

According to the report, reform in science education should achieve four goals:

  • Prepare students to "know, use, and interpret scientific explanations of the natural world"
  • Prepare students to generate and evaluate scientific evidence and explanations
  • Prepare students to understand the nature and development of scientific knowledge
  • Prepare students to actively participate in scientific practices and discussion

(Bono Sen, Ph.D., is the science education and outreach program manager for the NIEHS journal Environmental Health Perspectives.)

Environmental Health Perspectives (EHP) Science Education Program

The NIEHS journal EHP has its own innovative science education program, the only one of its kind offered by a scientific journal. EHP has created an inventory of more than 100 lesson plans that address some of the issues raised by the National Academies report. Using current and credible information, these lessons aim to teach students about the interconnection between their health and the world around them.

Designed to promote environmental health science as an integrative context for inquiry-based learning, the lessons encourage students' use and understanding of the scientific literature. This freely available online resource can be used to teach a variety of subjects in high school and undergraduate classrooms, including biology, environmental science, chemistry, ecology, physics, and social studies.

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