Worlds of Connections, through a partnership with NE STEM 4U after-school clubs, will use best practices in science education to engage underserved middle school youth. In the process, the project will promote public understanding of NIH-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 will assess 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 will support the ability of science, technology, engineering, and math teachers to give all youth opportunities to consider network science health careers. Annual “Science Connectors” and “Network Science Institutes,” in partnership with the Lincoln Public School Science Curriculum Specialist, will enhance teacher knowledge and incorporation of network science.
We will also host summer Network Science Institutes for 6th-12th grade teachers. Network scientists will describe their research to teachers in the mornings, and teachers will use the phenomena they learn about to create Next Generation Science Standards lessons together. Science curriculum specialists from Lincoln and Omaha Public Schools will facilitate lesson creation and assessments.
In years three, four, and five, the Johnny Carson School of Emerging Media Arts (JCSEMA) at the University of Nebraska will help the team to create stories using augmented or virtual reality to engage youth with network science for health. The students, faculty, and advisory board members from JCSEMA will work with NE STEM 4U youth and Network Science Institute participants 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.