Two groups of science teachers gathered at the institute this spring for training sessions sponsored jointly by NIEHS and the North Carolina Association for Biomedical Research (NCABR). Over the 21 years of partnership between the two organizations, more than 700 North Carolina science teachers and administrators have received training through Rx for Science Literacy workshops.
Attendees this year were welcomed by organizers Ericka Reid, Ph.D., director of the NIEHS Office of Science Education and Diversity (OSED), and Regina Williams, NCABR program manager. Huei-Chen Lao, OSED K-12 science education and outreach coordinator, also spoke.
Williams acknowledged the generous support from NIEHS for the workshop series and described the role of NCABR in facilitating outreach and promoting science literacy. “We are an association for the biomedical research community,” she said. “We provide professional development support and training and are also the outreach extension for biomedical research organizations [statewide].” NCABR has 23 institutional members, and more than 30 partner organizations nationwide.
Trainers from NIEHS and NCABR presented the full-day courses. At the March 10 workshop, the morning curriculum session was devoted to bioethics, and on April 4, to cell biology and cancer.
In the afternoons, the middle and high school teachers learned about humane use of animals from supervisory veterinarians with the NIEHS Comparative Medicine Branch and heard presentations reinforcing specific workshop themes.
Connecting attendees with free resources
Program Analyst Liam O’Fallon shared information about free online education and outreach materials developed through the NIEHS Partnerships for Environmental Public Health (PEPH) program.
Both workshops used curricula developed by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). For the bioethics session, NCABR Educational Consultant Pamela Lovin guided the teachers through the Exploring Bioethics curriculum supplement created by the NIH Clinical Center Department of Bioethics. NIEHS Program Administrator Michael Humble, Ph.D., used the Cell Biology and Cancer curriculum supplement developed by the National Cancer Institute.
Lovin and Humble combined brief lectures with audience participation, examination of case studies, and small group hands-on activities. Each of the modules concluded with an exercise on a timely and relevant topic. For bioethics, it was mandatory vaccination, and for cell biology and cancer, a proposed law requiring protective clothing for children exposed to ultraviolet rays from sunlight.
Food for thought about bioethics and cancer
In the afternoon session on bioethics, NIEHS Bioethicist David Resnik, J.D., Ph.D., presented a two-part discussion on “Bioethics: Clinical and Research,” which drew upon his service as chair of the NIEHS Institutional Review Board. The cell biology and cancer session featured a talk by NIEHS fellow Katie O’Brien, Ph.D., exploring “Vitamin D and Breast Cancer in the Sister Study.” Closing out the day was National Toxicology Program Deputy Director for Science Nigel Walker, Ph.D., discussing “Applied Research and Analyses Impacting Environmental Health.”
As they have for the past 21 years, organizers and presenters received high marks for creating a fast-paced, varied, and engaging program. Now it is the teachers’ turn to take their new resources and insights back to their classrooms, where they are nurturing the next generation of biomedical researchers and practitioners.
(Eddy Ball, Ph.D., is a contract writer with the NIEHS Office of Communications and Public Liaison.)