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Environmental Health Sciences as an Integrative Context for Learning

Program Description

Students with googles and test tubes The Environmental Health Sciences as an Integrative Context for Learning (EHSIC) initiative fosters partnerships among environmental health scientists, educators, and state departments of education with the goal of developing standards-based curricular material that integrate environmental health sciences within a variety of subject areas (e.g. geography, history, math, art). The purpose of the projects is to improve overall academic performance as well as enhance students' comprehension of and interest in environmental health sciences.

The innovative, seven-year EHSIC program has been multiphasic in implementation. During the first phase grantees developed instructional materials and established teacher enhancement and development components. In the second phase grantees implemented their integrated materials into classrooms. Finally, in the third phase grantees have evaluated the impacts and outcomes of their projects on student performance and teacher practices. In addition, grantees are implementing dissemination plans for their EHSIC curriculum.

Since the beginning of the program in 2000, grantees have created engaging materials for use in the classroom. To date, the nine projects have created over 80 different lessons that can be used in grades pre-Kindergarten to 12th grade. Some materials are available on-line free of charge. Others must either be purchased or obtained by attending a teacher workshop. A full listing of these integrative materials can be viewed on the NIEHS Science Education web page ( .

Evaluation of the nine projects has shown that students and teachers respond well to integrative materials. While there are myriad challenges to implementing and sustaining the use of the materials, the results have been positive.

The EHSIC initiative evolved from two previous K-12 science education initiatives at NIEHS. In 1993, NIEHS developed its first extramural program for K-12 Environmental Health Science Education. The Instructional Material Development initiative supported the creation of instructional materials at all grade levels. These projects provided instructional materials that can be infused into existing curricula and to develop interesting and challenging materials for students. Grantees used a variety of media, appropriate for the intended audience, to address such topics as cell biology, toxicology, risk assessment, scientific process and methodology, and indoor and outdoor air pollution.

The second initiative, Teacher Enhancement and Development, supported projects to develop and implement teacher enhancement and development activities. The goals of this program were to:

  • Enhance dissemination, utilization, and effective implementation of materials and curricula pertaining to environmental health science
  • Provide teachers with the disciplinary and pedagogical skills necessary for teaching environmental health science
  • Link researchers in environmental health science with teachers at the K-12 level. Grantees within this initiative have trained more than 7,500 teachers around the U.S. to incorporate environmental health science education into their classroom.

Program Contact

Liam R. O'Fallon, M.A.
Program Administrator

Tel (919) 541-7733
Fax (919) 316-4606
P.O. Box 12233
Mail Drop EC-21
Research Triangle Park, North Carolina 27709
Delivery Instructions

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Last Reviewed: November 14, 2008