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           Proposal Abstract for NIH


     Our Natural Disasters & Health (NDH) project was funded in 2019 by the Science Education Partnership Award (SEPA) program of the USA's National Institutes of Health. This is the abstract summary of the proposal.


NDH will inspire and inform middle school students about the life-threatening health effects of natural disasters as a way to stimulate student interest in science. The goals of NDH are to:

  • improve student scientific literacy of human body systems using natural disasters;

  • develop student critical thinking,

  • collaboration and communication skills to identify and effectively respond to problems;

  • promote community involvement, career awareness, and diversity of participants; and

  • perform a robust evaluation of the sim and explore its socioscientific impact.


Over the last few years millions of Americans have lived through hurricanes, blizzards, floods, droughts, earthquakes and even volcanic eruptions. Natural disasters have become common and personal – kids can bring their lived experiences to classroom discussions. NDH will provide disaster health education in live, 90-minute video conferenced, role-playing simulations incorporating gamification. Students act as medical responders using body systems knowledge to make critical decisions about emergency treatment. They triage survivors, diagnosis injuries and determine treatment options. Following the sim, a teacher may invite local public health or emergency management officials to talk to their classes about historic and likely future natural disasters at that location. A Teachers Panel, as used to develop this proposal, will meet periodically throughout the project to ensure that NDH matches the needs of middle school teachers and students. All NDH activities will be supported by professional development, and a NDH Resource Center will include curricula on body systems and disasters, with career information integrated into the sim and all curricula. A robust randomized block design will evaluate the effectiveness of the sim. The NDH research component explores two questions: first, we examine how adding an emphasis on socioscientific issues influences middle school students’ attitudes about science, its relevance, and its relation to ordinary life. The second question investigates the behavioral impacts of NDH on middle school students and their families at various intervals in the year following their participation in the program.

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Eruption of Mt. Pinatubo volcano in the Philippines in 1991. This was the second largest eruption of the 20th century with ash crushing the roofs of thousands of houses, and volcanic mudflows (lahars) wiping out villages and leaving deposits hundreds of feet thick. US military bases were nearly destroyed by the ash. Because of warnings by volcanologists there were far fewer casualties than expected. US Geological Survey picture.

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