Bringing Public Health Data to Washington Classrooms

Students will study how where we live can affect our health

New learning materials are coming for high-school science students in Washington state! The materials combine data, news articles, and even poetry into some brand-new learning modules. These new modules will allow students to see how climate change and geographic locations can impact their health.

What are the different impacts of climate change on pregnant women and their babies?

Are the impacts evenly distributed in our state?

Why are black women more at risk of experiencing pregnancy complications related to climate change than white women?

What community-level and state-level actions can reduce harm to women and their babies?

These are just some questions students will examine in “Climate Change and Pregnancy.” It’s one of the four new science modules designed to show students how science impacts our lives and communities by examining real, local data. The new materials were made possible thanks to a unique partnership. Folks from our Washington Tracking Network (WTN) teamed up with the Puget Sound Educational Service District (PSESD) to develop theses exciting new materials.

WTN’s mission is to make public health data more accessible for everyone, and this project brings data directly into the classroom. The project is the first of its kind in the nation!

“We are working hard to engage students in real-world data,” said PSESD’s Science Program Manager Cheryl Lydon. “These modules will give teachers a powerful tool to connect climate change to hyper-local public health issues of interest to their students.”

Using data, news and poetry to explore health and climate

Students will examine how various measures are connected to module topics and explore how they’re related. For “Climate Change and Pregnancy,” that includes WTN data on birth outcomes, extreme heat and social factors. Students will also examine how different places are impacted differently. For example, data shows that certain neighborhoods experience more heat than others nearby. Students will analyze this data to form their own hypotheses to explain the differences they observe.

The modules show students how to analyze data about health and climate and teach how to use WTN tools to find information for themselves. The modules also include resources that aren’t usually part of science classes: news articles, poetry, and community engagement.

This diversity of approach bridges the study of science and society with health and environment. As WTN manager Jennifer Sabel says, “In our society, there is so much emphasis on our individual choices. There needs to be more emphasis on how where we live also contributes to our health.”

A local perspective

Because students will look at real data for Washington, they will be able to see what is happening in their communities. The learning materials take this a step further by allowing students to engage directly with their communities. Students will interview elders and people working on health and environmental issues. They will learn unique insights and perspectives about the topics and data they examined. And maybe they’ll even get inspired to help work on local solutions.

The modules are designed to increase data literacy. They show students how to find data, use real tools, and analyze real-life impacts of the information they are looking at. They also provide insight into the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) career of epidemiology. Epidemiology is the study of when and where diseases and other health issues happen, with the goal of improving health. Students will get to work with the same health data that WTN epidemiologists use — and even hear from some about their work.

We’re excited to see how the new learning materials will engage science students in classrooms across the state. These materials are available to anyone for free through the Open Educational Resources Commons.

More Information

Information in this blog changes rapidly. Sign up to be notified whenever we post new articles. For more information from the Washington State Department of Health, visit doh.wa.gov.

Questions about COVID-19? Visit our COVID-19 website to learn more about vaccines and booster doses, testing, WA Notify, and more. You can also contact the Department of Health call center at 1–800–525–0127 and press # from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday, and 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday — Sunday and observed state holidays. Language assistance is available.

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From the Washington State Department of Health

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Washington State Department of Health

Washington State Department of Health

Protecting and improving the health of people in Washington State.

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