Engaging students in the biomedical sciences while they are still in high school is a critical first step toward educating a scientifically literate citizenry as well as initiating the pipeline that will eventually result in increased numbers of biomedical and health related professionals.
In collaboration with the Boston Public Schools, Professor Karina Meiri and her colleagues developed and disseminated a novel inquiry-based high school biology curriculum that focuses on biomedical research in the context of five "great diseases" that challenge global health – infectious, neurological, cardiovascular, cancer and diabetes.
"Instead of focusing on disease in older populations, we have selected case-based studies that are pertinent to teenagers, such as H1N1 flu, obesity, and cardiac arrest in elite athletes. The Great Diseases curriculum presents complex global health issues in ways that engage high school students," said Kathleen Bateman, co-principal investigator on the grant and director of the Boston Latin School science department.
The two key goals of the curriculum are to engage the imagination of students who do not see the science of their real world experiences mirrored in the classroom and to establish a model of how medical schools and school districts can interact to disseminate understanding of the biomedical research underlying disease at the high school level.
The Great Diseases curriculum also promotes a larger, long-term goal of drawing more young people into the field of biotechnology and biomedical careers. According to Pam Pelletier, senior program director for science at Boston Public Schools, Massachusetts could benefit from an in-state pipeline of motivated and well-trained young scientists.
"With The Great Diseases curriculum, our highly skilled and committed teachers will have the resources to connect students with science that matters to their lives, which we hope will translate into more students pursuing careers in the sciences," said Pelletier.