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Making the Grade - and Then Some
New Evaluation Report Reveals Strong Success of CHORI and Hall of Health Museum Partnership

These kids are really learning - not just the concepts but about scientific process itself. Not only that, they're also reporting that they're eating more vegetables, exercising, and taking more steps toward living healthier lives."

For the past 3 years, CHORI and the Hall of Health Museum have been heading up the Health and Biomedical Science for a Diverse Community project, which includes an experimental curriculum for 4th and 5th graders that uses fun, engaging and hands-on activities to educate low-income and minority students in the areas of health and biomedical science. Funded with a Phase I Development grant through the highly competitive NIH Science Education Partnership Awards (SEPA), the program has just produced its first evaluation report, with stunning results.

The goal of the program's curriculum, which was developed through a joint effort at CHORI and the Hall of Health Museum, is to encourage low-income and minority students to continue in science, and to ultimately envision themselves as biomedical researchers and health care providers, as well as to provide them with strategies for living healthier lives.

Two schools for the first 3 years of the Phase I grant were chosen as locations in which to pilot the experimental curriculum, while another 2 schools were also selected to serve as control groups.

"The 4th and 5th grade students in our 2 experimental sites and our 2 comparison sites are all demographically matched, and all in Oakland. The experimental schools take a pre-test, do our curriculum and then take a post-test, while the comparison schools just do pre and post testing," explains Lucille Day, PhD, co-director of the project with CHORI President Bert Lubin, MD. "We looked at attitude toward science and their achievement, which covers scientific process, concepts and some questions related to changes in their health-related behavior."

The results were overwhelmingly encouraging, with experimental students doing significantly better than the comparison students in all 8 units. In addition, in 5 of the units, experimental students did exceptionally better on the posttest than comparison students.

"There are 20 questions on each unit test, and in the 4th grade unit on obesity and nutrition, for example, the experimental students did significantly better on 15 of the 20 questions, while the other group did better on only 3 questions," says Dr. Day, "and this is just one example."

Experimental students also showed improvement in their attitudes toward science as well, with the experimental group exhibiting less anxiety toward science and higher self concepts in science.
"In other words, they believe science really is something they can do," explains Dr. Day. "They also have higher perceptions of the value of science."
Not surprisingly, with such a successful beginning, the Health and Biomedical Science for a Diverse Community project has received a second, Phase II SEPA grant, announced in late September, geared toward disseminating the curriculum in an additional 8 schools in Berkeley and Oakland. The Phase II grant will also provide the opportunity to disseminate an exhibit at the Halls of Health, called Your Genes and Your Choices.

"We use the exhibit as part of the genetics curriculum with a field a trip to the Hall of Health, and with our new grant, we have funds to make a version of the exhibit that will travel around the United States, here in California and as far away as Pennsylvania and Florida," says Dr. Day.

With the Phase II SEPA grant in hand, and the evaluation report leading the way to the next steps in the dissemination process, Dr. Day couldn't be more pleased with the how the program is going.

"It reveals that we're doing what we set out to do, and that we're teaching minority and underprivileged kids some very complex ideas in science and they're understanding it, and they're engaged in it," says Dr. Day. "They're not only enjoying it, but it really helps them to envision themselves as future scientists and future health-care providers, which is also what this is about."

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Monday, May 16, 2011 11:33 PM

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