Health in Our Hands: Learning How to Teach Science Virtually

July 13, 2020

Amidst the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, more and more classrooms are moving partially or completely online. The shift is creating many changes in the ways we think about learning; teachers in particular are having to adapt quickly in order to engage students virtually. The challenges of doing so were a main topic of discussion during Health in Our Hands’ professional learning workshop, which took place virtually at the end of July. 

For those who may not be familiar, Health in Our Hands (HiOH) is a project led by CREATE for STEM, in association with several other education, health and community partners from the Flint/Genesee area. Using the science curriculum developed through the HiOH project, students learn about gene-environment interactions, natural selection, and evolution. Most importantly, they learn about these concepts by applying them to important community health issues that affect their lives, such as diabetes and addiction. For their final project, students conduct an action research project to improve their school or neighborhood to help prevent or reduce diabetes and addiction. Students present the results and recommendations at a Youth Health Summit to their peers, family and community. CREATE for STEM received funding for this project from the Science Education Partnership Award, National Institute of General Medical Sciences. 

As an important part of implementing the curriculum in classrooms, the HiOH team has led professional learning (PL) workshops and seminars for participating teachers for several years. However, the workshop this summer marked the first time the PL was presented completely online. During the PL, the HiOH team led by research associate Consuelo Morales tried out many of the same virtual learning strategies with the teachers that they can use with their own classes, using technology such as Zoom and Jamboard. 

“Hosting the workshop virtually really gave us insights into the challenges teachers are dealing with right now,” says Morales. “Almost all of the districts that currently use the HiOH curriculum are teaching remotely this semester, making these discussions an essential component of the workshop.” Many of the discussions included space for teachers to ask questions and strategize together about ways to approach the HiOH curriculum and their lessons in general, learning to use technology as a tool rather than a hindrance. 

Despite the move to an online forum, the number of districts represented for the four-day workshop was even higher this summer than previous years. Teachers resoundingly said that they appreciated the opportunity to work through curriculum virtually and try out new strategies for teaching online. 

When asked what she liked best about the PL, Ashley Booker, returning 8th grade teacher from Atherton Community Schools responded, “Seeing the curriculum in action and the facilitators! I was able to see the curriculum and how it's going to be enacted. Since we will start online this fall, we will be troubleshooting as we go. So, I appreciate the follow-up Professional Learning Community sessions.”

As teachers start using the HiOH curriculum in their classes this fall, the HiOH team will continue to host bi-monthly virtual learning sessions. These will give teachers an opportunity to discuss their experiences with HiOH in class, figure out what’s working and what isn’t, and build upon their understanding of the content as they move forward through the curriculum. It’s unclear how long classrooms will have to remain remote, but with supportive virtual learning opportunities like these, the future of online learning is bright. 

HiOH is a project lead by the CREATE for STEM Institute at Michigan State University in collaboration with the Health in Our Hands-Flint/Genesee Partnership: Community Based Organization Partners of Flint, CRIM Foundation, Flint Community Schools, Atherton Community Schools, Genesee County Health Department, Genesee Intermediate School District, Genesys Health System, Greater Flint Health Coalition, Health Alliance Plan, Michigan State University (Human Medicine & Extension) and the University of Michigan-Flint (Discovering PLACE).


$1.2M NIH Grant Puts Health in the Hands of Students, Community

July 25, 2020
$1.2M NIH Grant Puts Health in the Hands of Students, Community

$1.2M NIH Grant Puts Health in the Hands of Students, Community

What controls your health?

It's a complicated question, but middle schoolers in the City of Flint and Genesee county area are able to answer that question, and more, with the Health In Our Hands project. 

Now, they will be able to inspire even more change in their community.

The project is continuing thanks to a five-year, $1.2 million grant from the National Institutes of Health Science Education Partnership Award, or NIH-SEPA.

"The kids and their teachers who have participated in this project are amazing," said Renee Bayer, a specialist at the Michigan State University CREATE for STEM Institute and principal investigator on the grant. 

Health In Our Hands, or HiOH, develops, tests and implements learning materials, blending classroom instruction and community-based learning. The goal is to give students and community members opportunities to understand, explain and apply ideas about health-related phenomena to their lives. Through these units, students investigate diabetes and addiction. 

Please click here for full article. 

Announcing: The Health in Our Hands Simulations Collection

July 2, 2019
Announcing: The Health in Our Hands Simulations Collection

For the convenience of teachers and other interested users, all of the Concord Consortium simulations related to the Health in Our Hands curriculum have been collected in one handy location on the Concord website.

This set of simulations is used in the Health in Our Hands curriculum to study how environmental and genetic factors influence the growth of organisms. Links to classroom materials are also included. The simulations can also be used independently from the curriculum to investigate gene-environment interactions in afterschool or summer settings or just for fun!

One of the simulations, How does food affect the health of sand rats?, was developed in partnership with the Concord Consortium especially for the curriculum.  Gene-environment Interaction: How does food affect the health of sand rats?

NGSS Curricula Is For All Teachers: Use Our Roadmaps!

May 5, 2019
NGSS Curricula Is For All Teachers: Use Our Roadmaps!

Health in Our Hands (HiOH) was recently featured in a blog and webinar hosted by THE Journal and STEAM Universe. Research associate Idit Adler and project manager Renee Bayer were invited to talk about how the project-based curriculum, HiOH, brings the vision of the NGSS into classrooms using Roadmap. Partnering with Professor Elliot Soloway at the University of Michigan College of Engineering we shared our experience about how teachers can use HiOH and its visualization through RoadMap technology to shift their instructional practices to align with NGSS. THE Journal is dedicated to K12 educational technology.

HiOH is a research project led by CREATE for STEM Institute at Michigan State University in a community-academic-school partnership, supported by the National Institutes of Health Science Education Partnership Award (SEPA). Designed to meet NGSS, HiOH is a coordinated set of classroom and community activities intended to give youth and adults an understanding of modern concepts in genetics using diabetes and addiction as real-world contexts.  Students and their families can use these concepts to appreciate the importance of both genetic and environmental factors in their risk for disease.

Young People Learn about Careers in Addiction Research Through Scientists' Stories

May 4, 2019

Introducing young people to the work of scientists and encouraging them to pursue STEM-related careers is an important aspect of a new research-based science curriculum for middle school called Health in Our Hands: How can looking for thrills make me miserable? The unit, which explores the biology of addiction, starts with a video with teens’ testimonials about addiction to vaping. Students investigate the brain’s reward system from an evolutionary perspective, and examine its role in addictive behavior.

To make career connections, we partnered with public health students who produced wonderful videos as part of their course requirements. The videos featured plant biologist Dr. David Lowry from Michigan State University who studies evolutionary genomics and neuroscientist Dr. Shelly Flagel from University of Michigan who studies addiction in mice models. Our thanks to Ross Baiers, Madison Hafitz, and Erika Holiday, Health Behavior Health Education masters students from University of Michigan School of Public Health!

Health in Our Hands (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).