Story by: Torri Whitaker
The Partnership for Environmental Education and Rural Health (PEER) Program at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM) presented curriculum to educators from across the state at Texas A&M’s STEM 4 Innovation Conference.
Hosted by the Texas A&M College of Engineering on Jan.13, the STEM 4 Innovation Conference is an interactive, experiential event for K-12 STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) educators, administrators, and counselors from across Texas.
The PEER Program presented materials during a breakout teacher professional development session and hosted a display booth at the conference. Dr. Larry Johnson, PEER principal investigator, distributed STEM career pamphlets and veterinary school posters to a host of teachers and school counselors visiting the PEER display booth.
PEER’s two-hour breakout session introduced middle and high school teachers to the “Infectious Diseases and Vaccinations” module from the National Institutes of Health (NIH)-funded One Health curriculum and app. Within this module, students receive instruction on data organization and analysis, identifying trends, and drawing conclusions utilizing real-world information about infectious diseases from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO).
Teachers had the opportunity to explore the many features of the module, including the following:
- “Essential Knowledge:” standards-based content within an interactive slide show style presentation.
- “Make a Note of That:” note-taking templates with guiding questions and vocabulary words to consider while exploring “Essential Knowledge.”
- “Backpack Adventures:” a fictional story with factual science content providing motivation and engagement for learning science standards.
- “Meet a Scientist:” a short biography about a scientist instrumental in the area of science related to that module.
- “Real Science Review:” an actual research article edited to middle school readability which students review using the scientific method as scaffolding.
- “Scientist Videos:” interviews with Texas A&M scientists describing the impact of science concepts in research, careers, or other aspects of the field.
- “Practice:” various online games and activities to gain or reinforce knowledge about the module’s key concepts.
In addition to delving into the PEER One Health curriculum, teachers were also provided with a scientist’s perspective on influenza.
Dr. Christine Budke, a CVM professor and associate department head of Veterinary Integrative Biosciences (VIBS), shared a brief lecture covering the characteristics and types of influenza viruses as well as distinguishing between epidemics and pandemics. Interactions of this nature enable teachers to better provide their students with examples of science applied to the real world.
Teachers attending the session unanimously agreed that the resources provided by the PEER Program are applicable to their jobs. Further, 75 percent of attendees believed that the curriculum would motivate increased engagement of students, while almost 90 percent believed the PEER resources would increase students’ content mastery of required science standards.
The PEER Program strives to further K-12 STEM education through opportunities such as the STEM 4 Innovation Conference, which helps provide teachers with engaging and applicable educational resources and scientist collaborations.