Genes, the Environment, and Me (GEM) works with school districts and communities in the Yakima Valley and throughout Washington State to develop a science education program focused on teaching about how genes and the environment interact to determine human traits, including disease conditions. Working with communities with a high percentage of underrepresented minority students, GEM supports teaching and learning about fundamental genetic concepts, complex diseases like type 2 diabetes that are influenced by gene-environment interactions, and how basic biomedical research is translated into clinical and public health practice through classroom instruction, after school programs, and community-based science celebrations. Please see Instructional Materials for both units, "What can we learn from worms? How the nematode C. elegans maintains balance in a changing environment" and "Type 2 Diabetes: A complex disease of gene and environment interactions."
In 2012, 2013, and 2014, GEM and UW GEAR UP (Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs) co-hosted the Science and Engineering Festival in Yakima, Washington. Over 2000 middle and high school students attended each festival as part of a school field trip, and approximately 400 community members attended during the evening. The 2012 event featured the SEPA-funded health exhibit and research project called "Let's Get Healthy," a robotics competition, hands-on activities and exhibits from the Pacific Science Center, Oregon Museum of Science and Industry and Museum of Flight, and much much more. GEM sponsored nine booths featuring biomedical research and career pathways, including building DNA from legos, presented by the Women in Genome Sciences; a giant walk-through colon that teaches about colon cancer from the Sunnyside Center for Community Health Promotion and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center; and a gel electrophoresis activity presented by the Madigan Army Medical Center.
In 2013 and 2014, the festival expanded to also include half hour biomedical workshops for visiting classrooms and bilingual speakers during the evening.
This project is supported by a Science Education Partnership Award (SEPA) from the Office of Research Infrastructure Programs (ORIP) of the National Institutes of Health through Grant Number R25OD010966.