NIH funds seven science education partnership awards

11/04/04

More than $8 million will support programs to increase science literacy

Bethesda, Maryland -- The National Center for Research Resources (NCRR), a component of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), announced today it will provide $8.1 million to fund seven FY 2004 Science Education Partnership Awards (SEPA). The projects will receive from two to five years of funding. SEPA programs are designed to improve the country's life science literacy by bringing together biomedical and clinical researchers, educators, community groups, and other interested organizations in partnerships to create and disseminate programs that provide a better understanding of science research. SEPA funds programs that serve K-12 students and teachers, as well as science centers and museums across the country. In addition to targeting students, SEPA partnerships also 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.

"It is crucial that we get our young people -- particularly minority students -- engaged and excited about the tremendous advances being made in biomedical research," said NCRR Director Judith L. Vaitukaitis, M.D. "By exposing them to the challenges of medical science and the inquiry-based scientific method, we hope to both improve students' science literacy and increase the number who will pursue biomedical careers."

FY 2004 Science Education Partnership Awards:

    Boston University School of Medicine (Boston, Mass.)

    Children's Hospital Oakland Research Institute (Oakland, Calif.)

    Colorado State University (Fort Collins, Colo.)

    Rice University (Houston, Texas)

    Science Museum of Minnesota (St. Paul, Minn.)

    Teachers College Columbia University (New York, N.Y.)

    University of Texas Health Science Center (Houston, Texas)

Full Description of Projects (http://www.ncrr.nih.gov/ncrrprog/clindir/SEPAdirectoryFY2004.asp )

These SEPA awards fund a variety of programs, from elementary education initiatives designed to reduce obesity and diabetes, to instructive Web-based games that provide information about infectious diseases, to traveling museum exhibitions about the human body. For example, the SEPA project at Colorado State will provide an elementary school curriculum to educate students about diet and exercise, while the initiative at Columbia will develop a similar instruction plan aimed at middle school students. Oakland's Children's Hospital will create interactive classroom activities on social and genetic factors in health to include minority issues such as asthma, obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. Meanwhile, the University of Texas will expand and increase distribution of its HEADS-UP health science curriculum to include sections on the immune system and advanced genetics. Rice University will broaden delivery of its MEDMYST project, an episodic adventure series concerning infectious diseases and the microbes that cause them, while Minnesota's Science Museum will produce and tour an exhibition highlighting the emergence of new illnesses such as SARS and Avian flu. Finally, Boston University will expand its CityLab program to include a conceptually linked series of hands-on molecular biology exercises that will allow students to explore blood as a means of understanding protein and cell structures.

The mission of SEPA has become more important since the program began in 1991, as minority representation in science education has declined. The U.S. Department of Education's 2000 National Assessment of Educational Progress found that only 3 percent of African Americans and 7 percent of Hispanics scored at or above proficiency in science by 12th grade, and minority students remain underrepresented in engineering and science baccalaureate programs.

SEPA grants support two phases of the science education projects. In Phase I, the partnership develops and evaluates biomedical and/or behavioral science education models that are based on health-related research. In Phase II, the partnership develops effective strategies and broadly disseminates established, successful, and innovative biomedical and/or behavioral science education models. In Phase II, the partnership must also plan for continuation of the project once SEPA support ends. Currently, there are 75 active SEPA projects, including 60 K-12 school-related projects and 15 at science centers and museums.

Source: Eurekalert & others

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