Environmental Health Sciences as an Integrative Context for Learning
As a collective, the nine projects have developed over eighty individual educational units (see NIEHS Science Education page, "Integrated Curriculum"). These materials address a range of environmental health science themes air, food, water, human diseases, science careers, research ethics and more. All of the themes are tied into two or more academic subject areas, and all are aligned to state and national education standards. Several projects have received awards or national recognition for their materials.
Teacher Professional Development and Impact
The projects worked with teachers to train them on the materials or to help them develop and implement curricular materials in the classroom. The projects used different approaches. Some worked closely and intensely with a small cohort of teachers, whereas other projects elected a broader approach to a larger number of teachers, but with less time interacting with them. Teachers that were trained by the projects had significant outcomes in terms of their behaviors and understanding of environmental health. Projects evaluated these impacts using classroom observations, pre-/post-tests, and surveys. Projects showed that teachers using these integrative materials and problem-based lessons interacted with the students more. In addition, teachers increased their understanding of environmental health concepts.
The projects have shown interesting and significant preliminary findings from their evaluations. These impacts are captured through a variety of evaluation approaches including pre-/post-testing, surveys, student portfolios, and standardized testing. When possible, some of the projects compared student performance of intervention classes with control classes. What the projects have shown is that students who’ve been a part of an EHSIC class:
Possess an increased enthusiasm for science and learning
Perform better academically, especially Spanish-speaking and 'low achieving' students
Understand core environmental health concepts better
Possess greater confidence in academic abilities, especially problem-solving