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Get Ready for the Next Generation of Scientists!

May 22, 2019
Get Ready for the Next Generation of Scientists!

Many people think that young people can't conduct meaningful research and help solve problems in their community. Sixth grade students from Mrs. Savoie’s class at Freeman Elementary School were invited to present results of their community action research project, "How can healthy smoothies attract consumers?" at the 2019 Healthy Flint Research Coordinating Center (HFRCC) Annual Symposium on March 15, 2019. Their presentation gave visibility to their research and the wonderful work that Flint students are doing in their science classes. The HFRCC symposium also gave students the opportunity to learn about other research conducted about health in Flint.

The community action research project was conducted as part of the science curriculum, Health in Our Hands: What controls my health?” during which 6th graders in Flint Community Schools studied type 2 diabetes to appreciate the importance of both genetic and environmental factors in their risk for disease. The curriculum connected students to real-world experiences. One in 10 adults in Michigan are diagnosed with diabetes, which like many common diseases, is caused by a combination of both genetic and environmental factors. During the unit, students investigated how lifestyle options for healthy foods and exercise help prevent or reduce diabetes. For the final project, the classes conducted an action research project to improve our school or neighborhood to help prevent or reduce diabetes.

Mrs. Savoie’s class chose to research healthy smoothies. First, they researched what makes for a healthy smoothie. They consulted with Katherine Alaimo, Professor of Food Science and Human Nutrition at Michigan State University and developed their own healthy smoothie recipes. The class then organized a healthy smoothie event where smoothies were served to family members and school friends. “Pink” was a very popular color for smoothies, although some people liked knowing the healthy ingredients when making choices. Students reported that more smoothies are being served at home.

Students were funded by a grant from the University of Michigan Flint-Discovering Place and the HFRCC. Health in Our Hands is a research project led by CREATE for STEM Institute at Michigan State University in partnership with Flint Community Schools, University of Michigan School of Public Health, Community-based Organization Partners of Flint, Sloan Museum, Flint Public Library, Concord Consortium in Massachusetts and Detroit Public Schools Community District, University Prep Science and Math Middle School, Charles W. Wright Museum of African American History, Michigan Science Center, Detroit Public Library, Friends of Parkside in Detroit. This project is supported by a Science Education Partnership Award (SEPA), National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS), Award Number R25 GM129186-05.

Student Voices Make Important Contributions to Community Health Through Science

January 28, 2019
Student Voices Make Important Contributions to Community Health Through Science

Young people from Flint and Clio area schools demonstrated that they have something to say about ways to improve the health of their communities.  On Tuesday January 15th, more than 300 sixth graders from Flint Community and Clio Area Schools presented together at the Youth Diabetes Health Summit in downtown Flint.  The student teams reported the findings from their Community Action Projects to answer the question, “How can we work together to make our community healthier?” The students have been studying Type 2 diabetes in science class as part of a new curriculum called, “Health in Our Hands: What Controls My Health?” They discovered how genetic risk factors and environmental factors such as poor diet and lack of exercise, put them at risk for disease. For their final project, students conducted a community action research project to improve their school or neighborhood to help prevent or reduce diabetes.

Sixth grade classes studied factors that affect healthy lifestyles.  Students at Doyle-Ryder Elementary School in Flint and Carter Middle School in Clio investigated how raising awareness about the amount of sugar we eat can affect students’ food choices.  Students at Freeman Elementary in Flint held a smoothie contest to study strategies for influencing family members to choose healthy smoothies. Two classes at Durant-Tuuri-Mott and Eisenhower Elementary Schools looked at the effects of peer pressure and “food buddies” on healthy food choices. Students at Holmes STEM Academy, Durant-Tuuri-Mott, and Neithercut Elementary Schools in Flint investigated the effects of different types of exercise and the amount of screen time on students’ well being.

At the Summit, students shared insightful, evidenced-based recommendations with over 75 family members and community experts. “The young people told me that when you change your diet and exercise habits you feel better, more focused, and get along better with other people,” said Pastor Jimmie Whitaker of MCAR Men's Community Action Resource. “I loved hearing the students talk about their work!” said Leyla Sankar of University of Michigan-Flint. “It raised awareness about and fostered empathy for individuals with diabetes. They definitely learned a lot about healthy choices.”

Similarly, on Thursday January 17th 190 seventh grade students at Carman-Ainsworth Middle School shared results from their community action projects at the Youth Addiction Prevention Health Summit. These students have been studying the biology of addiction in the new science curriculum called “Health in Our Hands: How can looking for thrills make me miserable?” to understand modern concepts in genetics. The students investigated how the brain’s reward pathway developed through natural selection and why this system can lead to addictive behavior in modern life. For their final project, students researched “How does social media affect my well-being?” Students shared results of surveys of family members, friends and students in other grades.  They reported on the duration of use of different kinds of social media and effects on feelings, attitudes, and behaviors.  Some students reduced their personal use of social media voluntarily and shared the impact on their own well-being. Over 25 family members and volunteers from the community attended the summit during one or more class hours of the day. “The students’ presentations helped me realize how knowledgeable they are about topics of their own interest and that they are truly experts in their own lives,” reflected Danielle McCoy of the Genesee County Health Department.

During both health summits on diabetes and addiction, students demonstrated that they can conduct research and present scientific information that can improve the lives of their loved ones. “Projects like these can have an impact on the community as the youth all noted they shared their results with their family and families were making changes,” said Dianna LaBonte, from Health Alliance Plan.

Community experts were also invited to introduce themselves and their career in a health or STEM-related field. Some shared information about a resource, program, or opportunity related to health or STEM, and invited students to extend their interest in science and community action outside of the classroom.

Behind every great student presentation is a dedicated and skillful teacher deserving of recognition and appreciation. Health in Our Hands included teachers from three participating school districts - Flint Community Schools: Kelley Blondin, Scott Davis, Whitney Ennis, Kathy Savoie, Robyn Seelye, Annette Sparks, David Sutton and Diane Baker-Williams; Clio Area Schools: Merin Brotherton; and Carman-Ainsworth Community Schools: Adam Cassel and Melissa Warburton.

Health in Our Hands, funded by NIH-Science Education Partnership Award (SEPA), is a project of MSU-CREATE for STEM Institute in collaboration with UM School of Public Health and other partners. The project is developing and testing new learning materials that blend classroom instruction and community-based learning to give both students and community members opportunities to apply ideas about gene-environment interactions and natural selection to their lives. The project is supported by the Health in Our Hands-Flint/Genesee Partnership: Community Based Organization Partners of Flint, Flint Community Schools, Genesee County Health Department, Genesee Intermediate School District, Genesys Health System, Greater Flint Health Coalition, Health Alliance Plan, Michigan State University-CREATE for STEM Institute & Extension, University of Michigan-Flint Discovering Place, and University of Michigan School of Public Health.

For more information, watch Flint NBC25 report: Flint, Clio schools team up for youth diabetes summit

Health in Our Hands Hosts Two Health Summits in the Community

December 27, 2018
Health in Our Hands Hosts Two Health Summits in the Community

CREATE for STEM Institute of Michigan State University, the University of Michigan School of Public Health, and partners in Flint and Genesee County invite the public to attend two events hosted by Health in Our Hands. For more information and to RSVP:

“Youth Diabetes Health Summit”
Tuesday, January 15, 2019 from 9:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.
Riverfront Banquet Center, 1 Riverfront Plaza, Flint, MI 48502. 
Final Presentations by 6th graders from Flint Community Schools and Clio Community Schools

“Youth Addiction Prevention Health Summit”
Thursday, January 17, 2019 from 9:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.
Sylvester Broome Empowerment Village, 4119 N Saginaw St Flint, MI 48505.
Final Presentations by 7th and 8th graders from Flint Community Schools and Carman-Ainsworth Community Schools

Health in Our Hands (HIOH) coordinates classroom and community activities to give middle school youth and adults an understanding of modern concepts in genetics. Using a research-based science curriculum, students investigate diabetes and addiction and use these real-world contexts to appreciate the importance of both genetic and environmental factors in their risk for disease.  For their final project, students conduct an action research project to improve their school or neighborhood to help prevent or reduce diabetes and addition.  Students present the results and recommendations at a Youth Health Summit to their peers, family and community. The project is supported by the Health in Our Hands-Flint/Genesee Partnership: Community Based Organization Partners of Flint, Flint Community Schools, Genesee County Health Department, Genesee Intermediate School District, Genesys Health System, Greater Flint Health Coalition, Health Alliance Plan, Michigan State University-CREATE for STEM Institute & Extension, Sloan Museum, Flint Public Library, University of Michigan-Flint Discovering Place, and University of Michigan School of Public Health

Community Plans Ways to Empower Students Through Science at the “Health in Our Hands Kickoff”

October 29, 2018
Community Plans Ways to Empower Students Through Science at the “Health in Our Hands Kickoff”

A concerned and caring community came together this past week from organizations representing health, education and community to support the young people of Flint and beyond.  On Wednesday October 24th, a new community coalition, Health in Our Hands-Flint/Genesee Partnership, highlighted an innovative project-based science curriculum, which links the classroom to the community. The group then shared ideas and ways to collaborate to support the success of the Health In Our Hands curriculum in Flint-area schools after the grant-funded program ends.

“Our common goal is to support kids in our community and connect them with the resources they need, “ commented Mary Herman from Representative Dan Kildee’s Office in her opening remarks.

Over the past 3 years, Health in Our Hands has been enacted in 6-8th grade classrooms in Flint-area schools with over 1400 students. “This project excites me more than most other projects that I have been a part of in my career as a science consultant,” said James Emmerling, Oakland County Intermediate School District. “They aren’t just learning science facts, like you and I may have been taught – the kids actually learn science, by doing science.  They are truly engaged in their own learning, because it connects to them on a personal level through diseases that touch their lives either directly or indirectly.”

Using diabetes and addiction as real-world contexts, students put to use modern concepts in genetics and environmental health to address health concerns relevant to their lives and take action to improve their community. Student learning is empowered by working with health related classroom mentors to engage them in community health research and introduce them to potential career interests. 

“Although this project is based in theory it has a practical application that our young people have taken to the next level,” said Omar Sims, Executive Community Liaison of Health Alliance Plan. Students present their results and recommendations at a health summit, giving them the opportunity to see themselves in the role of these careers by communicating real scientific research at a middle school level.

“We are now beginning an exciting new phase of this project, with community health and education partners assuming ownership of the program and committing themselves to supporting its future growth and to providing our students with expanded year-round opportunities applying their science learning to research and advocacy in the community,” said Toby Citrin, Director, Center for Public Health and Community Genomics, at the University of Michigan School of Public Health.

Health in Our Hands, funded by NIH-Science Education Partnership Award (SEPA), is lead by Michigan State University-CREATE for STEM Institute.  The kickoff event was organized by the Health in Our Hands-Flint/Genesee Partnership, a coalition of community, health, and education organizations dedicated to achieving success and sustainability of Health In Our Hands in Flint and beyond. Partnership members include Community Based Organization Partners of Flint, Flint Community Schools, Genesee Intermediate School District, Genesys Health System, Greater Flint Health Coalition, Health Alliance Plan, Michigan State University-CREATE for STEM Institute & Extension, University of Michigan-Flint Discovering Place, and University of Michigan School of Public Health.

Pilot testing of new unit begins with 7th Graders at Carman-Ainsworth Middle School

April 19, 2018
Pilot testing of new unit begins with 7th Graders at Carman-Ainsworth Middle School

How can looking for thrills make me miserable?  This is the question 145 7th-graders at Carman-Ainsworth Middle School are investigating in science class.  Pilot testing began April 12th and curriculum design continues in partnership with science teacher, Adam Cassel. This second unit dives deeper into gene-environment interactions exploring genetics, mutation, natural selection and evolution. Students investigate the brain’s reward system and why this system can lead to addictive behavior. The unit starts with a video with teens’ testimonials about their addiction to vaping (e-cigarettes), a concerning trend among high school and some middle school students. This leads into a discussion about addiction more broadly and how our genetics and the environment affect our risk. Finally, they research, “What can we do to reduce the risk for addictions for ourselves and in our community?”