Teaching Environmental Health Science for Informed Citizenship in the Science Classroom and Afterschool Clubs

By Alla Keselman, Daniel M. Levin, Savreen Hundal, Judy F. Kramer, Karen Matzkin and Gale Dutcher.

Published by The International Journal of Science in Society

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

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 paper describes two collaborative efforts between the U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM) and University of Maryland College of Education that attempt to meet these challenges. The focus of both projects is on helping students develop information seeking and evaluation and argumentation skills, and applying them to complex socio-scientific issues that have bearing on students’ daily lives. The first effort involves co-designing an afterschool environmental health club curriculum with an interdisciplinary team of middle school teachers. The second effort is the development and implementation of a week-long school drinking water quality debate activity in a high school environmental science classroom. Both projects center on Tox Town, an NLM Web resource that introduces students to environmental health issues in everyday environments. The paper describes successes and challenges of environmental health curriculum development, including teachers’ and researchers’ perception of contextual constraints in the club and classroom setting, tensions inherent in co-design, and students’ experience with socio-scientific argumentation.

Keywords: Environmental Health, Science Education, Middle Schools, Informed Citizenship, Science for All, Socio-scientific Issues

The International Journal of Science in Society, Volume 3, Issue 3, pp.31-44. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.561MB).

Dr. Alla Keselman

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

Alla Keselman is a Senior Social Science Analyst in the Division of Specialized Information Services (SIS), National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health. She coordinates activities of the SIS K-12 Group, which involve development of science education materials, outreach, and research. 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.

Dr. Daniel M. Levin

Assistant Professor, School of Education, Teaching, and Health, University of Maryland College of Education, Washington, USA

Daniel M. Levin is a Visiting Assistant Professor in the Department of Teaching and Learning, Policy and Leadership at the University of Maryland, College Park, where he teaches classes for prospective science teachers. He holds a doctorate in curriculum and instruction from the University of Maryland, College Park. His primary research interest is in how science teachers learn to attend to the substance of student thinking.

Savreen Hundal

Research Assistant, Division of Specialized Information Services, U.S. National Library of Medicine, Center for Public Service Communications, Bethesda, USA

Savreen Hundal, a contractor with the Center for Public Service Communications, is a Research Assistant with the Division of Specialized Information Services (SIS), National Library of Medicine, National Institute of Health. Ms. Hundal is a member of the K-12 Group. She holds a Master’s degree in psychology from Boston University. Ms. Hundal’s research interests include studying behavior as it is shaped by culture.

Judy F. Kramer

Public Health Specialist, Division of Specialized Information Services, U.S. National Library of Medicine, ICF International, Bethesda, USA

Judy F. Kramer, a contractor with ICF International, is a Public Health Specialist in the Division of Specialized Information Services (SIS), National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health. Ms. Kramer is responsible for the content management of the Tox Town Web site and is a member of the SIS K-12 Group, which involves development of science education materials, outreach, and research. She holds a Master’s degree in public health from the University of Michigan with a dual specialization in health education and population planning. Ms. Kramer’s research interests include environmental health education from a public health perspective.

Karen Matzkin

Outreach Specialist, Division of Specialized Information Services, U.S. National Library of Medicine, ICF International, Bethesda, USA

Karen Matzkin, a contractor with ICF International, is a K-12 Outreach Specialist and Project Manager in the Division of Specialized Information Services (SIS), National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health. Ms. Matzkin is responsible for the product development and outreach efforts of the K-12 team, which involves development of science education materials, Web sites and outreach. She holds a degree in Elementary Education from the University of Maryland.

Gale Dutcher

Division of Specialized Information Services, US National Library of Medicine, National Library of Medicine, Bethesda, USA

Gale Dutcher is Deputy Associate Director for Specialized Information Services (SIS), National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health. Previously, she held the position of Chief, Outreach and Special Populations Branch. Ms. Dutcher manages programs designed to increase the capacity of underserved populations to access electronic health resources, develop health literacy, and promote awareness of resources and their use. She also initiated the SIS K-12 information services and outreach program. She received a BS degree in biology from Stony Brook University, an MS in zoology from the College of Environmental Science and Forestry, and an MLS in Library Science from CW Post College, Long Island University.