Worlds of Connections, through a partnership with NE STEM 4U after-school clubs, uses best practices in science education to engage underserved middle school youth. In the process, the project promotes public understanding of National Institutes of Health-funded research using network science to improve public health. We have a fully integrated, crosscutting approach that combines network science, dynamic narratives, social engagement, inquiry, and emerging media arts. We are assessing if our efforts improve youth understanding of network science for health and interest in biomedical careers.
In addition to direct interaction with youth in after-school clubs, the project supports the ability of science, technology, engineering, and math teachers to give all youth opportunities to consider network science health careers. Annual Science Connectors in partnership with Lincoln Public Schools’ Science Curriculum Specialist enhance teacher knowledge and incorporation of network science.
We held a pilot Network Science Institute with middle school teachers and network scientists in the summer of 2020. We continue to explore avenues of integrating network science into middle school curriculum and insights from teachers for enhancing informal science activities.
In years three, four, and five, the Johnny Carson Center for Emerging Media Arts at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln will help the team to create stories using augmented or virtual reality to engage youth with network science for health. The Johnny Carson students, faculty, and advisory board members will work with NE STEM 4U youth and teachers from Lincoln Public Schools to create the augmented or virtual reality apps to help disseminate network science for health approaches beyond Nebraska.
The diagram summarizes the parts of the projects that will help us to reach our specific aims.