Amid concern about the effectiveness of science education, epidemiologists at the School of Medicine, educators at Yale’s Peabody Museum of Natural History and researchers at the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station (CAES) are collaborating on a project to increase science literacy and encourage careers in science.

The initiative, led by Leonard E. Munstermann, Ph.D., senior research scientist in epidemiology, has received a five-year, $1.3 million Science Education Partnership Award (SEPA) from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to stimulate students’ interest in science. In the program, to be housed at the Peabody Museum and coordinated by project manager Laura L. Fawcett, M.S.P.H., and science education specialist Terri Stern, researchers and educators will design curricula for grades 5 through 10 that create a deeper understanding of biological science.

“The curricula will feature Lyme disease and West Nile encephalitis because of their public health significance, and because they point to broader biological relationships,” says Munstermann, also curator of entomology at the Peabody. Students will explore tick and mosquito life cycles using preserved ticks and the skins and skulls of mammal and bird hosts for Lyme disease and West Nile virus. In springtime, students will capture and examine mosquito larvae from vernal pools.

The project is expected to reach 11,400 students by 2010. “By giving students the chance to participate in hands-on, inquiry-based research projects, we hope to demystify science and make it more accessible,” says Barbara M. Alving, M.D., acting director of the National Center for Research Resources (NCRR), a component of the NIH that will administer the grant.