Health in Our Hands Inspires STEM Careers Awareness

February 16, 2022
Health in Our Hands Inspires STEM Careers Awareness


A new journal article published by Michigan Science Teachers Association (MSTA) shows how Health in Our Hands (HiOH) inspires interest in STEM careers for underrepresented middle school students both in and out of school. Studies show that students are losing interest in STEM careers. Recommendations suggest that we must do a better job of supporting students' interests from a young age through awareness and encouragement.


The article provides an example of how career exploration is embedded in “What Controls My Health”, an NGSS-aligned middle school unit about diabetes.  Through investigations and discussions, students are introduced to different careers in health and science which help increase student awareness, build interest in STEM careers, and introduce role models and mentors for students. The article gives tips to science teachers about how they can promote STEM careers in their instruction that supports students in building their STEM identity and connects activities to the home and community.

For more information about HiOH, visit

A Tale of Two Flowers: new science-based comic book LIVE and in color

February 11, 2022
A Tale of Two Flowers: new science-based comic book LIVE and in color


The Health in Our Hands (HiOH) Team, in partnership with Dr. David Lowry and the Lowry Lab, is excited to introduce the Mystery of the Monkeyflower Graphic Novel LIVE and in Color. This graphic novel is part of the new curriculum, Mystery of the Monkeyflower, a 6-week, Next Generation Science Standards-aligned, project based learning unit for high school life science. Students use a moneyflower plant experiment and a graphic novel to learn how traits evolve over time through natural selection at both macroscopic and microscopic levels. The experiment is based on the research of Dr. David Lowry, a plant biologist of different traits in the population of one species of monkey flowers (Mimulus).


The graphic novel story is written by Danny Jackson and Idit Adler and the art is created by Louie Chin. The editors are David B. Lowry, Acer VanWallendael, Bianca Alexander, Consuelo Morales, and Irene Bayer. It was developed with input from teachers and community partners in Flint and Genesee County and piloted in classrooms in Flint Community Schools. The work was supported financially by Michigan State University and grants from the National Science Foundation (IOS-1855927) and Science Education Partnership Award (SEPA) National Institute of General Medical Sciences, a component of the NIH.

To see the graphic novel in action, visit For more information about the curriculum and professional learning opportunities, visit

Teachers become Plant Researchers as They Prepare to Teach the “Mystery of the Monkeyflower”

February 8, 2022
Teachers become Plant Researchers as They Prepare to Teach the “Mystery of the Monkeyflower”


Starting in February, high school teachers from Atherton and Flint will teach a new Health in Our Hands (HiOH) unit for biology called the  “Mystery of the Monkeyflower.” Four teachers and a curriculum specialist took part in 3 sessions of professional learning facilitated by the HiOH Team led by Dr. Consuelo Morales and Dr. Hildah Makori, HiOH Research Associates. Professional learning included several “sample teach” experiences where teachers took part in key curricular activities as learners, including introduction to the phenomenon and creating a driving question flowchart, conducting a field research investigation, and simulating genetic mechanisms at the cellular level. Each sample teach was followed by a debrief where teachers shared insights as a learner and reflected as teachers on instructional practices. Two sessions were held at the Genesee Intermediate School District and one was held virtually due to a winter storm.


In the “Mystery of the Monkeyflower”, students use a monkeyflower plant experiment and a specially developed graphic novel to learn how traits evolve over time through natural selection at both macroscopic and microscopic levels. The experiment is based on the research of Dr. David Lowry, plant biologist at Michigan State University, who is studying how different environments affect the development of different traits in the population of one species of monkeyflowers (Mimulus). The graphic novel was developed in collaboration with Dr. Lowry’s research team. Monkeyflowers, which grow quickly, produce many seeds, and have a simple genome, are the subject of study of many researchers who study plant evolution and adaptations. Monkeyflowers have adapted to have many colors and forms, diverse lifestyles, and extraordinary hardiness.


In early January, Dr. Lowry and the HiOH Team visited the classrooms and planted monkeyflowers from seed.  Teachers report that students are enjoying taking care of the plants and watching them grow.  They should be ready for students to use in their investigations when the curriculum starts in February. 


Renee Bayer, HiOH team member, stands in front of the Monkeyflower seedlings in Atherton classroom.


Montrose Rams Are Excited About Science

February 2, 2022
Montrose Rams Are Excited About Science


Sixth grade students from Kuehn-Haven Middle School with Montrose Community Schools finished up their studies of type 2 diabetes by presenting their Community Action Research Projects to family and friends on Wednesday, January 19th, 2022, at the Genesee Career Institute (GCI). This fall, they learned about diabetes, genetics and nutrition in their science class through their studies of “Health in Our Hands: What Controls Our Health?” Their studies culminated in their research project to study how health education can affect people's knowledge, attitudes, and maybe even behavior.  At their school, they hosted a Health Summit and shared presentations about how genetics, environment, and nutrition can have an impact on risk for diabetes.  They taught their peers how to read food labels.


Students presented their results at GCI explaining how their data and graphs showed increased understanding about diabetes and the importance of eating healthy by those who attended the event at their school. They thanked their teacher, Mrs. Kelly Sanborn for her dedication and for making science fun! 


“This year in science I have learned how much sugar and other unhealthy foods can affect my body in different ways. Ever since I learned about this stuff, I have been trying to eat healthier things,” said Bee Swzed, 6th grade presenter.


In addition to presenting, students were able to take part in a tour of GCI educational and technical programs for high school students. The GCI staff members conducted a thrilling tour of health and STEM-related classrooms and labs.  Particularly popular were the Crime Scene Lab and the Video Gaming Design Program. Tour guides emphasized the math and writing skills needed to be successful in these programs and encouraged young women to consider fields such as Welding and Diesel Mechanic. 


Although external community partners were not able to attend due to the recent surge in Omicron, we were able to arrange for three groups of students to present their findings and discuss their recommendations during the Health in Our Hands (HiOH)-Flint/Genesee Partnership Meeting which took place the next day. 


HiOH is a research project led by CREATE for STEM Institute at Michigan State University in a community-academic-school partnership, supported by the NIH Science Education Partnership Award (SEPA).


Flint/Genesee Partners Find Expert Mentors for the Science Classroom

December 16, 2021
Flint/Genesee Partners Find Expert Mentors for the Science Classroom


For the past two years, Tara Moreno-Wallen has identified speakers to talk to 8th graders in Flint and Atherton Community Schools as part of Health in Our Hands: “How can looking for thrills make me miserable?”


Eighth graders study substance use disorder and an important part of their journey is an interview that they conduct with a person recovering from substance use disorder from their community.  From this face-to-face experience, they build a better understanding of the mechanism of addiction, and how thrill seeking can become a maladaptive behavior.


One student shared, “My main takeaways from this research is that addiction is a terrible process of pain and regret.  Something that surprised me and made me think about, was that how close to home it hit me, because I had a family member go through the same thing.  In all honesty, anyone can be at risk of SUD.  I think people should learn from my research that addition is not fun and that it can hurt you and the ones around you.”


Ms. Moreno-Wallen is the Executive Director of Serenity House of Flint, and a member of the HiOH Flint/Genesee Partnership. The HiOH-Flint/Genesee Partnership connects our classrooms to their community by identifying classroom experts and mentoring community action research projects, listening to students’ findings and recommendations and celebrating their achievements at health summit events, and working to sustain this innovative model of science learning and community action for students in Flint and Genesee County. Experts have included nutritionists, an urban planner, and FoodCorps members.