200764 BioCONECT (Biology and Cancer, ONline Education Connecting Teens): An innovative and interactive high school curriculum

Wednesday, November 11, 2009: 9:10 AM

Laura Hemminger, MPH, CHES , Center for School and Community Health Education, UMDNJ-SPH, New Brunswick, NJ
Jennifer Campbell , Center for School and Community Health Education, UMDNJ-School of Public Health, New Brunswick, NJ
Hetal Vig, MS , HOPE Program, The Cancer Institute of New Jersey, New Brunswick, NJ
Deborah Toppmeyer, MD , The Cancer Institute of New Jersey, UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, New Brunswick, NJ
According to the National Science Board, the science education system in the United States is failing to equip all students with the requisite science literacy skills to succeed in today's globally competitive workforce; fewer students are also pursuing health science careers. An innovative high school biology and genetics curriculum, BioCONECT, was developed to improve science skills and introduce students to careers in cancer prevention, research and treatment. BioCONECT advances students' problem-solving and decision making skills, and expands their understanding of genetics and biology while exploring relationships between science and technology. Using breast cancer as the context, students study risk factors and molecular events leading to cancer, cancer genetics, genetic counseling, and treatment/prevention strategies. BioCONECT uniquely exploits teenagers' fascination with technology, texting and messaging by constructing the curriculum around an online forum established by fictitious teenage twins struggling to understand implications of their mother's newly diagnosed breast cancer. Responding to questions posted by the twins, students work through the scientific and psychological issues that arise from a breast cancer diagnosis by engaging in innovative and interactive lessons. BioCONECT was pilot-tested in 23 school districts representing a broad cultural and socio-economic diversity. A pre-test/post-test study conducted with more than 1,000 participating students demonstrated a significant improvement in knowledge of biology, genetics, and breast health, and revealed a more positive attitude toward science. BioCONECT will be expanded to include student opportunities for career exploration through one-month rotations in diverse cancer-related health science careers and more rigorous outcome measures of the finalized curriculum.

Learning Objectives:
1. Identify education standards that can be addressed using a novel curriculum, BioCONECT, and breast cancer as the context. 2. Describe methods for teaching genetics and biology using BioCONECT. 3. Discuss evaluation results of BioCONECT.

Keywords: Curricula, School-Based Programs

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I managed the development and evaluation of the BioCONECT program, as well as have developed prior health sciences education school-based programs
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.