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We all live downstream: Transforming knowledge and thinking through teaching and learning about the relationship between the environment and human health. David Hursh, Ph.D. Camille Anne Martina, Ph.D. University of Rochester Rochester, New York, USA. Project Rationale.

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david hursh ph d camille anne martina ph d university of rochester rochester new york usa

We all live downstream:Transforming knowledge and thinking through teaching and learning about the relationship between the environment and human health

David Hursh, Ph.D.

Camille Anne Martina, Ph.D.

University of Rochester

Rochester, New York, USA

project rationale
Project Rationale
  • The consequences of both the manufactured and natural toxins in our environment have adversely affected human health.
project rationale1
Project Rationale
  • However, the effect of the environment on human health is rarely discussed in the U.S. public education system.
project rationale2
Project Rationale
  • For the most part, U.S environmental education is directed toward ecology or how organisms interact with one another. In particular, most of the focus has been people’s affect on the environment.
project rationale3
Project Rationale
  • In 1999 the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) requested proposals for projects to enhance student awareness and knowledge of environmental health science.
project goals
Project Goals
  • K-12 integrated, interdisciplinary environmental health curriculum that links the environment to human health
setting the context demographic details of rochester new york
Setting the context: demographic details of Rochester New York

Rochester Metropolitan

  • Population 1.1 million
  • 93% born in the US
  • Ethnicity: 85% White, 10% Black, 5% Latino/a, 0.5% Native American, 0.5% Native Hawaiian/ Pacific Islander
  • Median income: $48,066
  • 89% compulsory education, 29% university degrees, 8% no education
setting the context demographic details of rochester new york1
Setting the context: demographic details of Rochester New York

City of Rochester

  • Population 219,773
  • Ethnicity: 48.3% White, 38.6% Black, 12.8 % Latino/a 2.3% Asian, 3% identified with more than one race
  • Median income: $31,057
  • 77% of the population’s children living in poverty
  • 24% of Rochester City School Children are lead poisoned
  • 10% of city housing is vacant
discussion of project schools
Discussion of project schools:
  • Monroe (urban)
  • Laurelton-Pardee (suburban)
  • Rush-Henrietta (suburban)
monroe high school
Monroe High School

Student Demographics:

93% poverty

7% working-class

76% general education

24% disabled

55% Black, 29% Latino/a

13% White, 2% Asian

1% Native American

monroe high school rochester new york environmental health curriculum
Monroe High School Rochester, New York Environmental Health Curriculum
  • Three eighth-grade teachers of students for whom English is a second language.
  • The teachers developed a two-month unit on the need for potable water and water pollution.
monroe high school environmental health curriculum watershed
Monroe High School Environmental Health Curriculum: Watershed
  • Explored the Genesee River that runs through the City of Rochester.
  • How the river connects to the Lake Ontario. “Our” potable water.
  • Look at the river and lake NOW! - What can we do to make things better?
monroe high school curriculum units watershed
Micro-organisms.Examined micro-organisms in fresh water.

Pollution. Learned ways that water is polluted and how pollution might be reduced or eliminated.

Problem-based learning:Case-study. Researched several possible sources for water-borne illness.

Water treatment plant. Visited local water treatment plant and learned how waste-water is treated.

Monroe High School Curriculum Units:Watershed
monroe high school environmental health social action
Monroe High School Environmental Health:Social Action
  • What can people do to keep pollutants from our storm drains?
  • How can you get your voice heard?
  • Storm drain Social Action
  • Students work with the Water Coalition
  • Spray painted-stenciled

“ Don’t Dump” in English and Spanish on storm drains

rush henrietta high school
Rush-Henrietta High School

Student Demographics:

99% Middle and working-class

1% Poverty

76% General education

24% Disabled

83% White, 10% Black

4% Asian, 2% Latino/a

1% Native American

rush henrietta environmental health public policy project
Rush-Henrietta Environmental Health Public Policy Project
  • Two high school teachers (science and social studies)
  • Problem-based learning about relationship between humans, the environment, and health
  • Students were introduced to four environmental problems linked to environmental health issues
rush henrietta environmental health public policy project1
(1) the potential of lead poisoning

(2) the potential for hazardous materials to be spilled while in transport either by accident or a terrorist attack

(3) the dangers posed by the disposal of electronic appliances, computers and cell phones (heavy metal contamination)

(4) the dangers of pesticides, herbicides and fungicides

Rush-Henrietta Environmental Health Public Policy Project
rush henrietta environmental health public policy project2
Students introduced to problem-based learning by reading a fictional scenario

Students researched whether and to what extent pesticides pose problems

Students assessed the credibility of different sources and analyzed the key components of the issues and effects on stakeholders

Students considered the pros and cons of alternatives

Rush-Henrietta Environmental Health Public Policy Project
rush henrietta environmental health public policy projects
Rush-Henrietta Environmental Health Public Policy Projects
  • (1) Wrote a public policy recommendation that determined how, when, and where pesticides were to be used
  • (2) Wrote a speech to be given to a governmental body stating their position on pesticide use
  • (3) Educational tool: a brochure or slide presentation regarding pesticide dangers.
laurelton pardee intermediate school
Laurelton-Pardee Intermediate School

Student Demographics:

67% Middle and working class

33% Poverty

76% General education

24% Disabled

73% White, 14% Black,

12% Latino/a, 1% Asian,

0% Native Americans

laurelton pardee intermediate school grades 3 5 east irondequoit new york
Laurelton-Pardee Intermediate School (Grades 3-5), East Irondequoit, New York
  • Three 5th grade teachers focused on students (10-11 years old) learning about the effect their suburban community has on the environment and health
laurelton pardee developing a sense of place historical and geological context
Laurelton-PardeeDeveloping a sense of place: historical and geological context
  • Students learn from the village historian their community was once agricultural region
  • Since World War II has become almost entirely residential
laurelton pardee developing a sense of place historical and geological context1
Laurelton-PardeeDeveloping a sense of place: historical and geological context
  • Viewed aerial photos of land use around their school: from 1920 to present
  • They investigated the creek running through the school yard by collecting and analyzing water samples
laurelton pardee developing a sense of place historical and geological context2
Laurelton-PardeeDeveloping a sense of place: historical and geological context
  • The students examined a topographical map of their area
  • Students created their own plasticine relief maps showing the location of their school in relation to nearby streams and lake bay
laurelton pardee understanding the potential impact of chemicals on water quality
Laurelton-PardeeUnderstanding the potential impact of chemicals on water quality
  • The students learned about the water cycle by a three-dimensional land-form map
  • Demonstrated how water accumulate toxic chemicals as it returns to lakes and the ocean via streams and rivers
governmental decision making researching pesticides herbicides and pet waste
Governmental decision-making: Researching pesticides, herbicides and pet waste
  • Final project: teams of

3 - 4 students

  • Research the potential negative consequences of pesticides, herbicides and pet waste on human health
governmental decision making researching pesticides herbicides and pet waste1
Governmental decision-making: Researching pesticides, herbicides and pet waste
  • Proposed ways to reduce or eliminate the problem
  • Presented findings by developing brochures, power point presentations and short videos
outcomes for all project schools
Outcomes for all project schools
  • Both students and teachers were more aware and concerned about the negative effect they and their community have on the environment
outcomes
Outcomes
  • Actively sought out alternatives to harmful pesticides and herbicides
outcomes1
Outcomes
  • Students became more engaged in their own education
  • Students described some of the activities, such as making the relief maps as “difficult… but fun.”
outcomes2
Outcomes
  • Teachers used the unit to help students see that knowledge is interrelated
  • Environmental health requires that they use knowledge and skills from all academic areas
outcomes3
Outcomes
  • Students became interested in local issues: county law requiring that residents receive

24-hour notification of neighboring pesticide use

barriers to implementing environmental health curriculum
Barriers to implementing environmental health curriculum
  • High-school teachers faced the following problems in implementing an integrated environmental health curriculum in collaboration with other teachers.
barriers to implementing environmental health curriculum1
Barriers to implementing environmental health curriculum

School structure and culture undermines collaboration

Teachers not given:

  • common planning periods
  • same students.

School culture:

  • Does not encouraged or rewarded collaboration.
  • Secondary level teachers have few discussions with other teachers in their subject area.
barriers to implementing environmental health curriculum2
Barriers to implementing environmental health curriculum

Time:

  • Teachers are always asked to do more, not less.
  • Many teachers feel the pressure to do more for their students and to take “time off” to collaborate is problematic.
  • We offered to pay for substitute teachers, so that teachers could meet during the school day, few teachers were willing to do so.
barriers to implementing environmental health curriculum3
Barriers to implementing environmental health curriculum

High-stakes Standardized Exams

  • Pressure to raise students’ test scores on the state’s standardized final exams.
  • Some teachers were able to avoid the pressure by placing the curricula in the few non-standardized exam courses.
  • Teachers who only taught courses with standardized exams implemented the curricula and succeeded with difficulty or not at all.
sustainability of curriculum
Sustainability of curriculum
  • Because teachers developed and implemented their own curriculum, they continue to use and revise it, whilst also “recruiting” other teachers to use curricula
  • The positive “domino” effect!