The Detectives in the Classroom curriculum was developed for middle school students because:
1. During middle school students become increasingly independent and are faced with many health-related decisions that can profoundly affect their lives. To make informed decisions, students need to understand how scientific evidence can be the basis for those decisions. A knowledge of the science of epidemiology empowers students to make both personal and collective, evidence-based, health-related decisions.
2. Anecdotal observations, while teaching epidemiology to middle school students in a weekend enrichment program, demonstrated that younger children were capable of grasping epidemiological concepts, thought that it was a "fun" science, and could see its relevance to the health issues that are of concern to them.
3. Curriculum materials to support the teaching of epidemiology in middle school were not available.
Historically, courses in epidemiology have been offered to graduate students in health-related programs, although some have advocated teaching epidemiology to undergraduates as a general education course. (David Fraser, "Epidemiology as a Liberal Art," New England Journal of Medicine, 309-314, 1987 and Marjorie Murphy Cowan. "Epidemiology: A Vehicle for Thinking Critically," Journal on Excellence in College Teaching, 41-62, 1997.)
Recently there has been some recognition of the value of teaching epidemiology to younger students. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has taken the lead in promoting the integration of epidemiology teaching in grades K-12. ("CDC Launches Effort to Teach Epidemiology from Kindergarten through High School," Epidemiology Monitor, November 1997.) The CDC EXCITE (Excellence in Curriculum Integration through Teaching Epidemiology) program is based on the development of teaching modules that incorporate key aspects of epidemiology such as quantitative methods and causal reasoning and is primarily appropriate for high school students. The EXCITE web site can be found at http://www.cdc.gov/excite/.