Harvard Medical School, Sanford Research to Engage Classrooms and Communities Through Genetics


Newswise — The Harvard Medical School-based Personal Genetics Education Project (pgEd.org) and the Sanford Program for the Midwest Initiative in Science Exploration (PROMISE) at Sanford Research have teamed to bring the latest developments in genetics into classrooms and communities in Massachusetts and South Dakota. 

The Building Awareness, Respect and Confidence through Genetics project, or ARC, is part of pgEd’s broader initiative to engage high school students and the general public in conversations about the benefits and implications of advances in personal genetics. The Sanford PROMISE will contribute experience and expertise in biomedical science education programming in the northern Plains and extend the project into rural America.

The ARC project, which is supported by a five-year Science Education Partnership Award from the National Institutes of Health, includes creating curriculum and rolling out new and existing curriculum to teachers.

“Given where genetic technologies are heading, it’s now more important than ever to be discussing the possibilities for improving our health and wrestling with the implications of knowing more about our genetic make-up,” said Marnie Gelbart, ARC principal investigator and director of programs at pgEd. “ARC is a project that sees opportunities for talking about genetics in many settings and relies on the expertise of and collaboration with teachers to bring these conversations into classrooms, schools, and communities.”

The curriculum is transdisciplinary and focuses on genetics, identity and diversity through topics such as gender, race, behavior and genome editing. The first module on genome editing was released in February. Additional modules will be released as the grant progresses.

These topics are making their way into workshops for educators, particularly those teaching in middle schools, high schools, colleges and universities.

“ARC hopes to empower teachers across all disciplines to stimulate dialogue about personal genetics,” said David Pearce, executive vice president of Sanford Research. “It has become increasingly important that we all, regardless of status or education background, better understand the benefits and implications the human genome has and will have in their everyday lives.”

In the first year of the program, pgEd held a three-day workshop titled Genetics and Social Justice at Harvard Medical School that attracted nearly 50 educators from across the nation. This group included teachers from Brockton High School in Brockton, Mass., (Jonathan Shapiro, science chair, and David Mangus, science) and Harrisburg High School in Harrisburg, S.D. (Lisa Cardillo, science, and Colby Peterson, social studies).

Working with these four lead teachers, pgEd and The Sanford PROMISE are paving the way for future workshops and community events. In April, the pgEd team visited Harrisburg High School for a community experience, and the team will host professional development workshops in Brockton, Mass., in June 2017 and Sioux Falls, S.D., in summer 2018. This summer, two rural high school educators from South Dakota will travel to Brockton with The Sanford PROMISE and work together with the Harrisburg teachers to help bring awareness of genetics to other South Dakota educators.

About Sanford Health Sanford Health is an integrated health system headquartered in the Dakotas. It is one of the largest health systems in the nation with 45 hospitals and nearly 300 clinics in nine states and four countries. Sanford Health’s 28,000 employees, including more than 1,300 physicians, make it the largest employer in the Dakotas. Nearly $1 billion in gifts from philanthropist Denny Sanford have allowed for several initiatives, including global children's clinics, genomic medicine and specialized centers researching cures for type 1 diabetes, breast cancer and other diseases. For more information, visit sanfordhealth.org.

About pgEd

The mission of the Personal Genetics Education Project (pgEd.org) is to raise awareness and spark conversation about the benefits as well as the ethical, legal, and social implications of genetic information. We aim to be inclusive of all voices in these discussions, regardless of socioeconomic or educational background, cultural or religious affiliation, and ethnic or personal identity. Founded in 2006, pgEd’s efforts include providing online curricula, organizing workshops for professionals, holding congressional briefings in Washington, D.C, engaging producers and writers of film and television, convening conferences, supporting an online learning tool (Map-Ed.org), collaborating with museums and libraries, and partnering with communities of faith.

This project is supported by the National Institutes of Health under grant number R25OD021895. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.

 

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