Last spring, Maureen Lichtveld, Freeport McMoRan Chair of Environmental Policy at Tulane, was awarded the $15 million Environmental Health Capacity and Literacy Project, a five-year grant included in the Gulf Region Health Outreach Program funded through BP’s settlement of class action medical claims in the aftermath of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
The project has spawned the Emerging Scholars Environmental Health Sciences Fellowship and the Environmental Health Sciences Teacher Workshop which will train 11th and 12th grade high school students and high school science teachers.
The student program, when fully implemented, will expose high-performing high school juniors and seniors from 17 parishes and counties in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida to environmental health science research. Launching in summer 2013 in Louisiana, the 8-week program will give selected students the opportunity to work one-on-one with university professors to complete an environmental health research project in the local community. Public health professors involved in the program will serve as mentors, helping students to develop skills in scientific inquiry.
A complementary teachers’ workshop will be held over two Saturdays in spring 2013. The technical content will be aligned with 11th and 12th grade Louisiana Grade Level Expectations and the newly introduced Common Core Curriculum. Participants will learn how to develop and implement creative, engaging lessons in the environmental health sciences.
“Equipping the science teachers with the knowledge and tools to embed what both students and teachers learn in the day-to-day science curriculum is key to sustaining our effort,” indicates Lichtveld.
The Environmental Health Capacity and Literacy Project will also create a network of environmental health experts to provide peer consultation, educational resources, and specialty referrals benefitting primary care physicians and other providers in the four-state area of the Gulf Coast, a collaboration with the Association of Occupational and Environmental Clinics.
“This project gives us the first comprehensive opportunity to build sustainable environmental health capacity benefitting our vulnerable communities,” says Lichtveld. “We will improve environmental health knowledge and skills at every level — from high school to graduate education, while connecting primary care providers with experts in environmental medicine.”
—Keith Brannon and Dee Boling (Parts of this article originally appeared in Tulane New Wave)