The study of human genes has dramatically changed how health issues have been explained and treated during the past 20 years. But educators have done little to teach future generations about the concepts behind those scientific breakthroughs.
Building on a previous program involving the University of Michigan SPH and School of Education, Michigan State University in partnership with U-M and others, will create learning materials about genomics and evolution for the nation’s middle school students and their local communities.
Researchers are using a $1.2 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to introduce the program in Detroit and Flint.
The new curriculum will blend formal classroom instruction and informal community-based learning to give both students and residents opportunities to apply ideas about gene-environment interactions and natural selection to their lives. For example, participants will learn how lactose intolerance develops in people and what privacy issues are considered for maintaining DNA samples from newborn blood screenings.
“I hope that this project will help students from the Detroit Public Schools and Flint Community Schools to gain a solid understanding of how genomics, the environment and principles of natural selection combine to affect their health, will help eliminate the racial and gender gaps in science learning, and will spark interest among minority students to pursue and enter careers in science and health,” said Mr. Toby Citrin, director of the Center for Public Health and Community Genomics and adjunct professor of health management and policy at U-M SPH.
Collaborators include the CREATE for STEM Institute at MSU, U-M School of Public Health, Detroit Public Schools, Flint Community Schools and the Concord Consortium, a nonprofit research organization in Massachusetts. In addition, museums, libraries, and other organizations will provide venues for learning activities that help increase parent engagement and public knowledge. Partners include the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, Detroit Public Library and Friends of Parkside in Detroit, and the Sloan Museum, Flint Public Library and Community-Based Organization Partners in Flint.
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