Engaging students in biomedical sciences while they are still in high school is a critical first step for making informed health choices, promoting scientific literacy, and fostering future biomedical researchers and health related professionals. This raises three fundamental questions: One, will high school students be interested in health sciences? Two, how do we deliver relevant content knowledge to teachers? Three, who will develop the curriculum?
We reasoned that students will become deeply engaged with life sciences only when they see the science behind their real world experiences mirrored in the classroom. This hypothesis lends itself nicely to biomedical sciences because health and disease are inherently relevant to students’ lives.
A hindrance to designing a biomedical curriculum for high school students is the separation between fields; teachers are delivery experts, but are not trained in biomedical science, while biomedical scientists are content experts who rarely interact with high school teachers or their students. Through support from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) we have developed a collaborative learning community between Boston Public Schools teachers and Tufts Medical School scientists who are collaborating to build novel inquiry-based, differentiated curricula for Biology II students focused on the ’Great Diseases’ that impact global health. Starting with Infectious Disease and moving onto Neurological Disorders, Metabolic Disease, Cancer and Heart Disease, the curriculum challenges students to think critically and to participate in problem solving about current scientific concerns. Each curriculum lasts about 6 weeks.
Once the curricula are developed we work closely with teachers who use it in their classrooms. We provide two levels of mentored support: The downloadable materials available on this website for each curriculum are a fully comprehensive set of resources for both teacher and student. Teacher resources comprise a teacher text for thorough background preparation, complete plans for each lesson, slides and power points, video clips and readings. Student resources comprise workbooks that follow each lesson and assessments.
We also provide real-time structured mentoring to teachers, in which each piloting teacher is paired with a Tufts content expert who answers their questions about translating this novel material into the classroom and provides help in modifying the materials for their specific students. Because the mentorship occurs in real-time, teachers can have confidence in the implementation. And because implementation is so critical to student success we ask any teacher who is interested in using the curriculum to contact us so we can help make the process go smoothly.
In this way our collaboration allows us to couple curriculum development with professional development, yielding both novel curricula and teachers prepared to teach it.
The Infectious Disease curriculum has been fully developed and has gone through 3 enactments in which it has been thoroughly evaluated. Check with us if you would like to use it.
The Neurological Disorders curriculum has been enacted once and is currently under revision. It will be available for general dissemination in early 2013
The Metabolic Disorders curriculum is under development and will receive its initial pilot in Winter 2012.
Cancer will begin development in Spring 2013.