Teaching Environmental Health Science for Informed Citizenship

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In the era of growing concerns about human-induced climate change and sustainable development, it is important for the schools to prepare students for meaningful engagement with environmental policies that will determine the future of our society. To do this, educators need to face a number of challenges. These include deciding on the science knowledge and skills needed for informed citizenship, identifying teaching practices for fostering such knowledge and skills, and finding ways to implement new practices into the tightly packed existing curriculum. This presentation will describe an effort, in which U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM) and American University collaborated with a group of middle school teachers on developing an afterschool environmental health club curriculum that attempts to meet these challenges. The curriculum centers around an NLM web resource, Tox Town, which introduces students to environmental health issues in everyday environments. The focus of the club is on helping students develop information seeking, evaluation and argumentation skills, and applying them to complex socio-scientific issues that have bearing on students’ daily lives (e.g., improving the quality of water in the school water fountains). Teachers working on the curriculum come from the fields of science, social studies and language arts. The curriculum emphasizes the interdisciplinary nature of environmental health concerns and the skills needed to address them. In this paper, we describe the collaborative approach that guides the development of the club, discuss lessons we have learned during the planning process, and present some of the curricular modules we have developed.


Keywords: Environmental Health, Science Education, Middle Schools, Informed Citizenship, Science for All, Socio-Scientific Issues
Stream: Science Pedagogy
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: Teaching Environmental Health Science for Informed Citizenship in the Science Classroom and Afterschool Clubs


Dr. Alla Keselman

Senior Social Science Analyst, Division of Specialized Information Services
U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health

Bethesda, MD, USA

Alla Keselman is a Senior Social Science Analyst in the Division of Specialized Information Services, National Library of Medicine, of the National Institutes of Health (USA). She holds a doctorate in human cognition and learning and a Master’s degree in biomedical informatics from Columbia University. Her research interests include lay understanding of complex health concepts (particularly, among children and adolescents), health literacy, and the impact of science education on scientific reasoning outside the classroom. Her work at the US National Library of Medicine also includes working with a school outreach group that designs environmental health information resources and curricula for schools. Dr. Keselman’s research and outreach work are centered on searching for ways to make school science instruction relevant to formulating informed opinions and making decisions beyond the school years, and on bringing information technology to aid this.

Dr. Daniel M. Levin

Assistant Professor, School of Education, Teaching, and Health, American University
Washington, DC, USA


Judy F. Kramer

Public Health Specialist, Division of Specialized Information Services
U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health

Bethesda, MD, USA


Karen Matzkin

Outreach Specialist, Division of Specialized Information Services
U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health

Bethesda, MD, USA


Savreen Hundal

Research Assistant, Division of Specialized Information Services
U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health

Bethesda, MD, USA


Ref: Y11P0067