The Web site Global Environmental Change and Our Health builds upon the content from Johns Hopkins course material and scientific papers, but the information has undergone a transformation: Geared to middle-school students and educators, it delivers scientific information in a kid-friendly, engaging and visually vibrant manner using streaming video, photographs, animations, graphs, charts and maps.
The site was developed through a partnership between the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the PBS miniseries Journey to Planet Earth, which is hosted and narrated by actor Matt Damon. The program began airing in March and continues this month.
The Web site explores for students the connection between the world's threatened ecology and the emergence of new health risks. In addition, it contains National Science Education Standards-based lesson plans, developed by PBS TeacherSource, specialists in Web-based lesson plan development for K-12. Numerous links throughout the site connect to data-rich sources that can be used for homework, papers, science projects or lesson plans. A specialized glossary for students and teachers is available, as well as a questions-and-answers section.
The Web site features five thematic areas--Taking Our Temperature (global climate and environmental change), Hole in the 'Zone (stratospheric ozone depletion), Unbalancing Act (biodiversity loss and land use change), What's Left to Eat (food and water scarcity) and Our Small World (globalization and transboundary pollution). The first three themes are online now; the final two will be available in the summer.
"The idea for the site grew from enthusiastic feedback following some of my public lectures on global environmental health," said Jonathan Patz, assistant professor at the School of Public Health. The comment he often heard, he said, was "'Kids should really learn about how environmental change in different parts of the world can affect their own health.'"
Patz followed through on the advice and launched this initiative with a start-up grant from the Gottesman Fund, followed by additional private and federal grant support. "The site is very exciting for students because it deals with serious and very current topics," Patz said. "But it also shows middle-school students how to have fun with the visual elements and discover what potential solutions exist for alleviating the effects of global climate and ecological change."
Serving as science adviser and project leader for the Web site team, Patz brought on board noted science educators Steve Tomecek, aka "The Dirtmeister," and Marjorie Share. Tomecek has served as consultant for 3-2-1 Classroom Contact and the Newton's Apple television shows, written over two dozen science books for children and teachers and starred in the Emmy award-winning television series Dr. Dad's Phantastic Physical Phenomena. Share is former director of education at the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Services and past education adviser to the founding director of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. She is best known for an interdisciplinary approach integrating traditional and new technologies.
The Web site has been funded by the Gottesman Fund, New York Community Trust, Overbrook Foundation, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Consortium for Conservation Medicine, Wildlife Trust, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and MetLife.