We had been teaching graduate courses in epidemiology at Montclair State University, Seton Hall University, and Felician College for more than a dozen years, when we read a March 1997 EpiMonitor column titled "CDC Launches Effort to Teach Epidemiology from Kindergarten to High School." Based on our experiences teaching epidemiological concepts at a Saturday program for gifted and talented middle school students, as well as our teenage children's interest in dinner table conversations, we agreed with CDC's conclusion that the science of epidemiology could capture younger students' attention.
A sidebar of the EpiMonitor article told us that for further information, we could contact Donna Stroup or Rick Goodman at the Epidemiology Program Office. We did so, and began to think about how we might contribute to this effort.
Donna and Rick invited us to present our still-hazy ideas for an epidemiology curriculum to high school biology teachers at the 1998 Woodrow Wilson Biology Institute, at Princeton University. At the conclusion of our presentation, we asked the teachers to identify barriers to teaching epidemiology and ways those barriers could be addressed. The most frequently mentioned barriers were the lack of appealing instructional materials, the need for teacher training in epidemiology, and a lack of class time. Participants suggested incorporating epidemiological principles into flexible and interdisciplinary materials that could be implemented throughout the school year.
Taking this encouragement and advice, we began to develop what we now call Detectives in the Classroom: An Epidemiology Curriculum for Science, Mathematics, and Health Educators. Two Science Education Partnership Awards from the National Institutes of Health as well as the support of colleagues and the partnerships we have established along the way have supported our efforts. (See Partnerships.)
Mark is currently an Associate Professor, in the College of Education and Human Services, at Montclair State University, Montclair, New Jersey, where he teaches courses in epidemiology, environmental health, and drug policy. In addition, he serves on the College Board's Young Epidemiology Scholars Working Group on High School Epidemiology Curriculum, where he works with epidemiologists and high school teachers developing curriculum materials to develop high school students' understanding of basic epidemiologic concepts.
Wendy is with the Epidemiology and Health Surveillance Section at ExxonMobil Biomedical Sciences, Inc., located in Annandale, New Jersey. She works on health surveillance systems for employees in the US and others in Africa and Asia, and has conducted several employee health studies. She also administers company guidelines to ensure the appropriate ethical review and conduct of human health research studies.