Biodiversity and Vector Borne Disease

July 30th, 2010 | EVALUATION

The Peabody Museum of Natural History's program on Biodiversity and Vector-Borne Disease was successful in meeting all of its goals. The following is a summary of the program in terms of these goals. Goal 1: To build teacher capacity for bringing research in biodiversity and disease ecology to grades 5-11 in an engaging, inquiry-based style. A total of 64 teachers from Connecticut and 4 teacher-trainers from California, Texas, and Wisconsin participated in training institutes to learn about vector-borne diseases. All participating teachers successfully implemented most or all of the curriculum unit in their classes. Although some of the second cohort of teachers from Connecticut expressed concerns about the unit, most teachers in all four cohorts were enthusiastic about using the curriculum in subsequent years. Many middle-school teachers adapted the unit to make it more appropriate for their students, and the teacher-developed adaptations were shared on the program server. Each cohort of teachers experienced significant content learning gains as a result of attending a summer institute and teaching the curriculum unit. Goal 2: To develop innovative, standards-based science curriculum resources that use Museum collections to investigate biodiversity and vector-borne disease ecology. During the initial summer institutes, some teachers expressed concern that the unit would not allow them to meet the necessary state standards. Teachers were particularly concerned about increasing pressure from principals and administrators to prepare students for state tests, and many expressed reluctance to teach the entire curriculum unit due to these concerns. However, increased alignment of the lessons with state standards helped alleviate teachers' concerns about adherence to the standards. By the final summer institute, teachers were extremely positive about how the curriculum unit allowed them to meet their state standards through engaging, inquiry-based instruction. Throughout the program, teachers were enthusiastic about the use of the Event-Based Science framework for engaging students in interesting problems in science. However, the first pilot tests of the culminating Task and the preceding lessons showed that teachers and students had trouble connecting the Task to the other lessons in the curriculum, and that some teachers and students did not understand the objectives of the Task. Revisions in the structure and design of the Task greatly improved teacher and student reactions. As the clarity of the Task and the cohesiveness of the unit increased, teachers and students' engagement, understanding, and enjoyment of the program improved. Goal 3: To increase student understanding and practical application of science process skills in the context of investigating biodiversity and disease ecology - through the use of curriculum resources and Museum specimens, and through visits to biomedical research laboratories. Throughout the institute, most teachers expressed great enthusiasm for the opportunity to teach their students about real-world issues in science, and students were motivated by the opportunity to do real science about problems affecting their own communities. The trip to the Yale Agricultural Station to observe mosquito habitats and research labs provided a grounding experience in research equipment and techniques. Teachers particularly felt that the Task was useful and effective in getting students to think carefully about the importance of science for their communities and about science careers. During each year of the Peabody Fellows Program, students' learning gains were assessed by a 19-question test administered both before and after the unit in was taught in their classrooms. Each year, students in both high school and middle school showed significant learning gains on the test, indicating that the unit was successful in helping students understand concepts of vector-borne diseases relevant to Connecticut. By year 4, students had significant, positive attitudinal shifts in their knowledge of science, the importance of science, and how much science they learned during class as a result of the curriculum. Goal 4: To release novel teacher-designed curriculum resources through selected dissemination sites in California, Texas, and Wisconsin.\r\n\r\nAs was previously mentioned, to disseminate the Vector-Borne Disease curriculum beyond Connecticut, four educators from California, Wisconsin, and Texas participated in a week-long "Train the Trainers" session at the Peabody Museum. The goal was to train educators from diverse parts of the country so that they could train other teachers in their home states to use the curriculum. The trainers felt that the training session was excellent and appreciated the opportunity to learn the interdisciplinary curriculum unit. They were enthusiastic about the unit and confident that teachers would not have any trouble teaching the unit in their classrooms. They generally felt that the lessons would be engaging for students, and would help students learn about and appreciate applications of science and scientific careers. Goal 5: To increase public understanding of the nature of biomedical sciences and scientific research in the context of two case examples, Lyme disease and West Nile virus. Two Biodiversity Day programs were held at the Peabody Museum, in April 2008 and 2009. The first Biodiversity day was extremely well attended, attracting 1300 visitors. The second Biodiversity day attracted 678 visitors. A majority of the participants were families who were interested in learning about science, having fun, and doing something with the family. Visitors were extremely positive about their experiences at the Biodiversity Day events. Many said that they learned a lot of new information at both events, and most rated each of the program components as "excellent." In addition, the Peabody Museum of Natural History developed a traveling exhibit on Biodiversity and Vector-Borne Disease that was available to their visiting public.



Team Members

Minda Borun, Evaluator, Museum Solutions
Peabody Museum of Natural History, Contributor


Funding Source: NIH


Audience: Educators | Teachers | Elementary School Children (6-10) | Evaluators | Families | Middle School Children (11-13) | Museum | ISE Professionals | Youth | Teen (up to 17)
Discipline: Ecology | forestry | agriculture | Education and learning science | Life science | Nature of science
Resource Type: Evaluation Reports | Summative
Environment Type: Informal | Formal Connections | K-12 Programs | Museum and Science Center Programs | Professional Development | Conferences | Networks | Professional Development and Workshops | Public Programs