Science Education Partnership Awards, January 2007

Science Education Partnership Awards (SEPA) are designed to incorporate inquiry-based learning experiences to stimulate interest in science, further public understanding of health issues, and encourage the next generation of health professionals. With an emphasis on reducing health disparities, the program's K-12 projects target minorities and students in rural and underserved communities. The awards support enhanced training for science teachers; the development and distribution of hands-on science curricula; and websites for students, teachers, and the general public.

Brown University

Providence, RI

Project ARISE: Advancing Rhode Island Science Education

Grant No. RR022719-01A1
Award: $636,131

Principal Investigator
John Stein
Phone: 401-863-2263


Project ARISE: Advancing Rhode Island Science Education is a professional development program for teachers, designed to engage students in inquiry-based approaches to learning about science, bring cutting-edge research into the classroom, and improve the understanding of the relevance of science to everyday life. The core of Project ARISE is a year-long program for Rhode Island high school science teachers that will be co-taught by university faculty and graduate students. The goal of the program is to develop the tools and perspective that will enable high school teachers to integrate national science education standards and high-level concepts in molecular and genomic biology, bioinformatics, neuroscience, and physiology into their high school science classroom. During the first year of the program, Brown faculty and staff will work with a science education specialist from the Rhode Island Department of Education, high school science teachers, and an evaluation expert from the Education Alliance to design and refine course modules, mobile laboratory projects, and lesson plans focused on an inquiry-based approach to science and the broad-based concepts that are integral to it. During the summers of the program, Brown faculty members and graduate students will team-teach a two-week course to 15 Rhode Island high school science teachers selected as fellows, who will learn active, inquiry-based teaching methods that will assist them in achieving the national science education standards for teacher professional development and for science teaching. Fellows will have access to mobile laboratory equipment as well as qualified scientific advisors during the school year, so that they may implement new curriculum and concepts in their classrooms and conduct professional development in-service workshops. With the guidance of scientific advisors and trained fellows, students will define a research question, write an application for exploration, carry out and interpret controlled experiments, and report their findings at the Nature of Discovery Symposium held at Brown University at the end of the school year. Lesson plans for middle and high school teachers developed by fellows will be posted on the Project ARISE website and will be presented to invited teachers at a meeting held at Brown University.

Columbia University Health Sciences

New York, NY

Health Sciences Research: Educating the Public - PHASE II

Grant No. RR017374-04
Award: $520,650

Principal Investigator
Samuel Silverstein
Phone: 212-305-3546


Many New York City public schools lack dedicated laboratories and the equipment needed for students to perform hands-on experiments in the life sciences. Not surprisingly, the majority of these schools are located in sections of the city in which most of the students are minorities underrepresented in the life and health sciences. To address the needs of these students, the project—with the support of a Phase I SEPA grant—developed and pilot-tested two New York City science performance, standards-specific, portable laboratory kits: Microlab II and ​Molecules and Health. These kits contain all the equipment and other materials needed to perform relatively sophisticated life science experiments in a room that has only tables and electrical outlets. The kits are suitable for use by life and health sciences students in grades 7-12. Microlab II is a microscopy-based kit designed to explore basic aspects of cell biology and physiology. Molecules and Health is designed to illustrate the principles of molecular biology, and to provide students with hands-on experience in manipulating and analyzing DNA. Using Phase II support, this SEPA project will train teachers to use these kits and enable them to disseminate the kits to schools throughout New York City. This SEPA dissemination project has four specific aims: 1) to improve the quality of hands-on laboratory life sciences instruction and life sciences achievement of New York City middle and high school students underrepresented in the health sciences by training 135 New York City public middle and high school science teachers. The teachers will receive three days of training in the use of theMicrolab II or Molecules and Health kits at the New York Hall of Science, and in-school assistance to set up and use these kits; 2) to provide an opportunity for students who devise the best 8th grade "exit" projects in classes of teachers participating in the training program to further explore their projects and demonstrate them to the public, while participating in a four-day science summer camp at the New York Hall of Science; 3) to invite six middle or high school teachers who perform at an exemplary level in the training program to obtain advanced laboratory training by participating in Columbia's Summer Research Program; and 4) to assess the impact of this project on teachers and students.

Foundation for Blood Research

Scarborough, ME

Biomedworks: How Doctors Use Evidence-Based Medicine; Phase I and II Submission

Grant No. RR022698-01A1
Award: $1,186,953

Principal Investigator
Walter Allan
Phone: 207-883-4131


The goal of BiomedWorks is to improve high school teachers' and students' understanding of the clinical trials process and the advances in health science that arise from such trials. A partnership has been assembled that brings together physicians from Maine Medical Center (the major teaching hospital in Maine), a core of master teachers, The Center for Curriculum Development of the Biological Sciences Curriculum Study, experts in teacher professional development from the Maine Mathematics and Science Alliance, and the staff of ScienceWorks for ME. The objective is to develop a novel curriculum that will pique the interest of high school students in clinical trials research while building critical science and mathematics knowledge and skills. To accomplish this, the project will develop, pilot, and field-test medically focused, inquiry-based curricular units for advanced high school biology classes. The curricular units will introduce the evidence-based medicine (EBM) process of asking answerable questions, searching the medical literature for clinical trials, and evaluating evidence from trials. The units will be aligned with national and state standards, thereby supporting learning areas of mathematics and science in a real world context. BiomedWorks will engage high school students in medical challenges via filmed vignettes of hospital rounds. A team of master teachers and medical doctors will define the clinical scenarios that provide a setting for framing the medical questions about therapy and diagnosis. The films introduce the clinical problem and provide background medical information students will need to understand the context for asking an EBM question. The curricular units will be piloted by the master teachers in their advanced science classes in years two and three. Additional high school teachers will be recruited from New England in year three to attend a field-test institute introducing them to BiomedWorks. Teachers will field-test the piloted curriculum with their students during the academic year. During the final two years of the project, professional development and dissemination will occur through conference presentations, one-day workshops at state science meetings, three- and five-day sessions at summer institutes in Maine, and school district requested three-day institutes in various locations. BiomedWorksmaterials and associated professional development will also be offered through the NSTA bookstore.

Imaginarium, Inc.

Anchorage, AK

North Star (Phases I and II)

Grant No. RR023272-01
Award: $1,346,509

Principal Investigator
Christopher Cable
Phone: 907-276-3179


Alaska is a vast state equal to the combined areas of Texas, California, New York, Pennsylvania, Florida, Massachusetts, Virginia and Vermont, yet it has half the road miles of Maryland, a state 56 times smaller and with a population of just 626,932. Alaska's physical size, lack of road access to most communities, natural barriers, and some of the earth's harshest weather have limited the state's ability to educate its citizens, provide adequate health care, and even to provide public water and sewer systems for everyone. Alaska also relies heavily on outsiders to fill its need for most professionals, such as educators, scientists, and health professionals. Unfortunately, these outsiders often don't appreciate Alaska's extreme conditions or remoteness. They usually leave the state after serving only a few months or semesters. If this trend is to change, Alaska must begin to identify, recruit, and educate its own youth to become tomorrow's teachers, scientists, and health professionals. The North Star program proposes to design and implement a five-year, outcome-based Phase I/II plan that brings together the Imaginarium Science Discovery Center, the University of Alaska Anchorage Department of Biological Sciences, Providence Alaska Hospital, and a statewide advisory committee to provide: 1) twenty-five educationally and/or economically disadvantaged Alaskan high school students (predominantly Alaska Natives from rural villages) with direct access to biomedical research mentors to guide and support student research projects; 2) a six-week summer institute focusing on a pre-med curriculum and job shadowing opportunities; 3) school-year internships for 60 educationally and/or economically disadvantaged Anchorage students in grades 8-12 at the Imaginarium for direct access to science and health content, training on delivering research-based demonstrations, and exhibit building for the public; 4) professional development for 200 teachers across Alaska focusing on inquiry-based, hands-on learning techniques, and supplemental health and science curricula; 5) a means for university and hospital researchers with direct access to the general public to disseminate their research methods and results in public venues; and 6) a website for showcasing student and biomedical research methods and results, a participant forum for blogging, pages for sharing their research projects, and links to other resources. The North Star program will be evaluated by an independent evaluation firm with student matriculation rates tracked and career paths followed.

Oklahoma City Community College

Oklahoma City, OK

Biotechnology/Bioinformatics Discovery!

Grant No. RR017282-04
Award: $538,213

Principal Investigator
Charlotte Mulvihill
Phone: 405-682-1611, ext. 7225


Oklahoma City Community College, in partnership with the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center (OUHSC) and teacher-leaders throughout Oklahoma, will expand the phase I Biotechnology/Bioinformatics Discovery! project to rural Oklahoma and disseminate curricula to a national audience. The broad goals of the project are to enhance science education through professional development for teachers, improve student success in science—especially among underrepresented groups—so that more students will enter college and choose careers in the health sciences, and to increase awareness of the contributions of the biomedical research enterprise. At least three of the four geographic regions of rural Oklahoma are targeted and the project will focus on isolated rural schools with large numbers of students from underrepresented groups in science. The Native American networks developed by OUHSC will be a primary resource. High quality inquiry modules for laboratory experiments for high school students have been prepared and are ready for adaptation to middle school students. Teacher-participants will attend summer institutes and then implement laboratory experiments for their students, using the learning cycle as the pedagogical approach (explore, develop concept, apply/extend). The quality and content of the laboratory experiments are derived from peer-reviewed national projects to give students experiences with science content and technology that would not otherwise be available. Project personnel provide the laboratory modules for classrooms along with in-class support for the teacher, as requested. Project coordinators will make regular visits to each region. A teacher-leader for each rural region will become an active member of the implementation plan. Teacher-leaders will help set up a regional equipment loaner center, and will form a mock biotechnology company with their students to learn how to prepare module materials locally. Capstone activities to celebrate and promote the health sciences will occur regularly for students and their teachers with the aid of OUHSC partners. A DVD and learning module focused on clinical trials, tailored to student audiences, will be one project outcome. An external evaluator will provide formative feedback for continuous improvement as well as a summative evaluation. Data measures will include classroom observations, teacher surveys at baseline, post-workshop, and post module implementation, student surveys pre- and post-implementation, student acquisition of science process skills, and student interest in science and health careers at baseline and post-capstone experiences.

University of Miami Coral Gables

Coral Gables, FL

Heart Smart

Grant No. RR023279-01
Award: $1,360,053

Principal Investigator
Patrice Saab
Phone: 305-284-5472


The University of Miami's Department of Psychology, in collaboration with the Miami Museum of Science & Planetarium, will create a hands-on traveling exhibit, complementary classroom, and Web-based resources aimed at raising awareness about cardiovascular disease risk factors, and strategies for reducing these risks and improving personal health. The Heart Smart exhibit and educational resources will: 1) serve to highlight the distribution of cardiovascular risk factors across Miami-Dade County's diverse population; 2) communicate the range of disorders associated with the risk factors, including obesity, diabetes, and coronary disease; and 3) communicate the critical importance of controlling cardiovascular risk through nutrition, activity, and stress management. Besides raising awareness about this public health challenge, the project will break new ground by demonstrating how an urban science museum, in collaboration with a research university, can serve as an environment for not only communicating, but also conducting, scientific research. University of Miami graduate students and researchers will be involved in the development, training, implementation, data collection, and data analysis aspects of the exhibit. Through this participation, they will have access to the emerging data sets generated by the exhibit, informing theses, dissertations, and scientific publications related to ongoing areas of cardiovascular research. The university and the museum also will conduct a health education evaluation project to assess the effectiveness of a museum-based informal learning curriculum and its impact on student knowledge and behavior. The study will build on previous University of Miami research that has involved county-wide blood pressure screening of 10th grade public school students, indicating substantial numbers with elevated blood pressure and attendant risk factors. The evaluation project will explore the extent to which 10th graders engaging in an enhanced museum experience and playing a "cardiovascular debate game" display greater gains in cardiovascular health knowledge and improvements in behavior than their peers. Following the development, pilot testing, and implementation of the exhibit, the museum will disseminate the exhibit to a variety of alternative venues including libraries, local hospitals, high schools, and university settings. The project website will include continuously updated displays of the data collected at each venue, a downloadable version of the debate game, and links to related online public health resources.

University of Rochester

Rochester, NY

LSLC: Strengthening Connections Between Scientists and Classroom Learning (Phase I & II)

Grant No. RR023285-01
Award: $1,333,052

Principal Investigator
Dina Markowitz
Phone: 585-275-3171


The Life Sciences Learning Center (LSLC), a science education laboratory at the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC), provides secondary school students and teachers with the opportunity to learn about and experience hands-on scientific inquiry. The long-term goals of the LSLC are to provide resources to K-12 teachers, and to create an opportunities for interaction with University of Rochester biomedical research science faculty, graduate students, and post-doctoral fellows. The LSLC will utilize funding from a SEPA Phase I & Phase II grant to create and disseminate comprehensive curricula that directly reflect biomedical research performed at the URMC. This project will bring together scientists and science educators in developing and disseminating four curriculum modules focused on NIH-funded biomedical research that is being undertaken by URMC scientists. These modules will provide learning and teaching strategies to engage student interest, support learning of biological concepts, and foster an awareness and understanding of biomedical research. These curriculum modules will be standards-based and will integrate classroom activities, laboratory activities, and computer activities. The topics of the four modules will be: 1) use of neural stem cells as gene therapy vectors; 2) genomic technologies to identify pandemic-specific genes ofvibrio cholerae; 3) therapies and molecular changes in the brain that result in the recovery of visual functions after brain damage; and 4) physiological and molecular effects of ultrafine air particulates. Classroom-ready versions of each module will be disseminated throughout New York State via a partnership with the New York State Biology-Chemistry Professional Development Mentor Network. Nationwide dissemination of the curricula will be facilitated through workshops, a website, and laboratory supply kits that will be loaned to teachers. Local dissemination of the curricula will be facilitated by URMC graduate students and post-doctoral fellows who will be trained to lead LSLC laboratory sessions. The LSLC will implement a comprehensive mixed-methods evaluation consisting of process and outcomes measures, employing both quantitative and qualitative methodologies. Furthermore, the project will assess the implementation of the curricula and the impact of the curricula on student content knowledge.

University of Utah

Salt Lake City, UT

Genome Science for Health: Web-Based Curricula for Biology, Phase I & II

Grant No. RR023288-01
Award: $1,349,482

Principal Investigator
Louisa Stark
Phone: 801-585-0019


The Genetic Science Learning Center (GSLC) at the University of Utah will utilize its synergistic expertise in education, science, and technology to educate secondary-level life science students and teachers about the role of NIH-funded research advances and clinical trials in improving health care. The Genome Science for Health project will develop four Web-based curriculum supplement modules—on cell biology, developmental biology, molecular genetics, and clinical trials—that illustrate the continuum from basic research through translational science to clinical trials and into medical treatments. Regenerative medicine and animal research also will be addressed. The modules will employ interactive learning in a highly visual environment, an approach designed to appeal to the tech-savvy, digital-age students of today. At the same time, they will clearly address content in the national science education standards, ensuring that they are used by teachers. Two cohorts of teachers will participate in summer institutes, working with the GSLC staff to draft the modules, which will be developed using the GSLC's new, innovative ExploragraphicT Web design and ExploragraphicT Web-based curriculum development process. Formative feedback throughout the process from students, teachers, and scientists will help to direct module development from initiation through pilot testing in classrooms and revision. The modules will be widely disseminated via the highly-visible, award-winning GSLC website Link to external Website, which received almost 3.7 million visits in 2005 from students, teachers, and the public. Professional development workshops for teachers and a summer institute will support dissemination of the curricula. The Genome Science for Health project goals are: 1) to educate secondary-level students about the role of NIH-funded basic research, translational science, and clinical trials in improving health care; 2) to engage high school life science teachers in learning about the Genome Science for Health module topics, and in developing the curriculum frameworks and learning approaches to address them; and 3) to prepare teachers to use the Genome Science for Health curricula with their students, through professional development courses and workshops at the local, regional, and national levels. The Genome Science for Health project will bring a new level of understanding to students, teachers, and the public about the process by which medical treatments are developed, as well as their potential roles in this process as clinical trial participants. Because the clinical trials module will be disseminated via the Web, it will be able to support the community engagement activities of NCRR's Clinical and Translational Science Awards across the United States.

University of Washington

Seattle, WA

Collaborations to Advance Understanding of Science and Ethics (Phase II)

Grant No. RR016284-04
Award: $542,000

Principal Investigator
Susanna Cunningham
Phone: 206-616-1963


Support for biomedical research is dependent on public understanding of how research is conducted and its vital importance for human health. The rapid pace of scientific innovation has resulted in new bioethical challenges that highlight both the need for access to accurate scientific information, as well as the importance of rational civic discourse. The Collaborations to Advance the Understanding of Science and Ethics (CAUSE) Phase II program addresses an unmet need for innovative educational resources that prepare science and health teachers to explore the ethical implications of research with their students. The long-term goals are to increase public awareness of the processes of health-related research, and to foster understanding of the relationship of ethics to science. CAUSE teaching materials are designed to increase student awareness of the social contexts in which research occurs, demonstrate the importance of understanding science content and the process of research, and promote the development of skills required to analyze ethical issues in the health sciences. This Phase II grant supports the transition to self-sustaining status and national dissemination of the expertise and materials developed in Phase I. The CAUSE products—an ethics primer and three curriculum units (HIV Vaccine Clinical Trials, Stem Cell Research, and Genetic Testing)—will be disseminated through two major methods. First, an online course for educators will be developed in collaboration with the University of Washington Distance Learning Department. Once created, pilot-tested, and revised, this course will become self-sustaining and available to all U.S. teachers. Second, CAUSE will offer educators professional development in various workshops/institutes, to ensure that teachers will use the program resources as well as train their colleagues in utilizing the materials. Dissemination will capitalize on the investment made in Phase I, effectively leveraging the work already completed. Educational use of the CAUSE program products will assist in the preparation of citizens who can analyze the ethical and scientific dimensions of future policy decisions about research-related issues, as well as their own health choices.

West Virginia University

Morgantown, WV

West Virginia Health Sciences and Technology Academy (HSTA) Students Design Public Health Clinical Trials

Grant No. RR023274-01
Award: $1,332,904

Principal Investigator
Anne Chester
Phone: 304-293-2323


The Health Sciences and Technology Academy (HSTA) of West Virginia University will implement this Phase I and II SEPA project with mock clinical trial protocol as a format to bring together biomedical and clinical researchers, university faculty, and community to disseminate science education to 9th-12th grade underrepresented students, their high school teachers, and to the general public. Critical components of clinical trials will be embedded in population-appropriate and age-appropriate context, and inquiry-based experiences using diabetes as the disease system and life-style interventions focused on nutrition and exercise. Clinical trials protocol curriculum will be designed by both HSTA teachers and university faculty and used for both campus summer programming and academic year, community-based, student research projects. In W.Va., over 43 percent of children have been classified as at-risk or overweight. In the last decade, W.Va. has recorded the highest diabetes-related deaths in the nation, though it is believed to have a high prevalence of modifiable risk factors for diabetes and obesity. The objectives of this application are to demystify clinical trials for the general public with special attention to under-served populations and to improve the health of the state through education. The goal is to guide students and teachers in research projects involving life-style interventions for obesity and diabetes in communities where they transmit their new knowledge and understanding of research and clinical trials protocol to parents and community members. By doing so, teachers will address critical barriers to progress in healthy lifestyles and demystify clinical trials research through the use of a novel teaching method. In addition, the project will raise the level of science training for both teachers and students involved; excite teachers to incorporate the mock clinical trial protocol curriculum in their classrooms; provide academic enrichment in science and math to better prepare under-represented students for academic success in college; and stimulate student interest towards biomedical research with particular attention to under-represented students.

Wheeling Jesuit University

Wheeling, WV

CyberSurgeons Live Simulation and PBL Development and Dissemination

Grant No. RR023299-01
Award: $1,350,000

Principal Investigator
Bruce Howard
Phone: 304-243-8720


The Center for Educational Technologies (CET) will implement a five-year Phase I & II development and dissemination project called CyberSurgeons. Through this project, the CET will increase the knowledge of high school students taking biology, physiology, or related classes. In particular, students will gain a greater understanding of human pathophysiology and the process of biomedical research and clinical trials. The project will influence the future of public health through encouraging students' future participation in the clinical research enterprise and promoting greater career awareness of occupations in these fields. The CET will develop two components for students based on national standards. The first component is the CyberSurgeons live simulation, conducted through distance learning technologies. The simulation features students working as part of a high-tech "remote trauma unit" in medical-surgical teams to diagnose and treat an ailing researcher deep in the rain forests of Ecuador. The second component is an online CyberSurgeons problem-based learning (PBL) module, which features a "problem" about the quality of a cancer drug, with case studies, science articles, datasets, and charts to analyze; hands-on, inquiry-based activities; and teacher support materials. Both components include optional activities promoting awareness of careers in biomedicine. During the development process, the CET will conduct design-based evaluation. The live simulation and PBL components will each have two cycles of development, classroom testing, formative evaluation, and revisions. An external evaluator will conduct a summative research study, utilizing a quasi-experimental design to demonstrate the effectiveness of the modules in classrooms. Dependent measures will be science literacy, science-related attitudes, and career development. Program dissemination will utilize a multimodal, multifaceted approach with the goal of program sustainability past the grant period. In the first three years, partnerships will involve three school districts in the development and testing process. In the final two years, the program will be promoted regionally, then nationally—doubling program outreach each year. Additionally, the program will be promoted among informal science education entities such as science centers and Challenger Learning Centers. Other dissemination means include conferences, workshops, promotional mailings, and research papers.​