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Totally Toxic! A K-12 science outreach activity using case studies to teach basic principles of toxicology Christine Curran, Northern Kentucky University.

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Presentation on theme: "Totally Toxic! A K-12 science outreach activity using case studies to teach basic principles of toxicology Christine Curran, Northern Kentucky University."— Presentation transcript:

1 Totally Toxic! A K-12 science outreach activity using case studies to teach basic principles of toxicology Christine Curran, Northern Kentucky University David R. Mattie, AFRL/Wright-Patterson AFB Abstract The Ohio Valley Society of Toxicology (OVSOT) established the position of K-12 liaison to encourage toxicology education in area schools. The “Totally Toxic!” activity was developed and tested at schools participating in the Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky Girls in Science programs. The target audience was middle school girls, because research indicates this is a critical age for girls deciding whether to continue taking science and math courses. Totally Toxic! uses current and historic case studies to demonstrate essential principles of toxicology such as “The dose makes the poison.” In addition, students are trained to identify toxins and toxicants in common household products. They learn that individual factors such as age, genetics, and sex can affect their response to toxicant exposure. Other important lessons include differential toxicities based on the route of exposure and co-exposures. The activity ends with Tox Teams solving “The Strange Case of Jennifer Strange,” whose 2007 death was attributed to water intoxication. This activity serves as the assessment of the student learning outcomes, allowing for further elaboration and clarification if required. Background “Totally Toxic!” was developed for middle school girls participating in Girls in Science programs in Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky. Sixth grade girls meet once per month in science clubs to explore different fields of science. The program was developed as an outgrowth of existing science outreach efforts by the Ohio Valley Society of Toxicology which included PowerPoint presentations explaining the history of toxicology, the basic principles of the field, and interesting case studies (Figs. 1a-d). It has since been expanded to summer science camps serving minority students as well. Engaging Students Each program begins with a discussion of historical case studies, including the death of Abraham Lincoln’s mother (Fig. 2) from “milk sickness.” This case studies emphasizes bioaccumulation by discussing how the cows which ate snakeroot were not affected, but those who drank the accumulated toxin in their milk could be poisoned. Students also learn about unusual poisonings reported in the medical literature (below left and center) Learning What’s Toxic References Bybee et al The BSCS 5E Instructional Model: Origins and Effectiveness Saturday Science Academy (right) Shadowing (high school students visiting toxicology labs) SURF-Neuroscience presentations For more information Chris Curran (K-12 liaison) OVSOT Web site Fig. 2. Nancy Hanks Lincoln (drawn by Lloyd Ostendorf) Instructional Methodology Totally Toxic! is based on the 5-E model of instructional design developed by the Biological Sciences Curriculum Study (Bybee et al. 2006). The major goals are to Engage, Explore, Explain, Elaborate and Evaluate. Fig. 1a-d Educational outreach. Samples slides are shown from a PowerPoint developed by OVSOT officer David R. Mattie for educational outreach. “Totally Toxic!” was developed to modify the lessons for a middle school audience. Students explore toxicology in the home by examining common household products and labeling all of the ones they believe are toxic. The instructor then explains why all of the products can be toxic, how the route of exposure affects toxicity, and why certain populations are at highest risk. The elaboration includes a discussion of synergistic effects, using the example of alcohol and acetaminophen’s effects on liver toxicity. Evaluation Brings a Science Surprise To make sure students understand that many chemicals are perfectly safe, they’re shown a list of volatile organic compounds (above right) and asked which household product contains them. The surprising answer is: the tomato! The biggest surprise comes from the final activity when students form “TOX Teams” to solve a mystery: The Strange Case of Jennifer Strange. The 2007 case involved a radio station contestant who died of water intoxication (Fig.1d). Students conduct their own investigation of the toxic liquid until finally cracking the case and understanding the real meaning of “The dose makes the poison.” Additional OVSOT outreach activities


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