StarNet: Investigating Smoking Behavior
This project involves teachers and students in authentic research related to drug abuse. Students carry out actual human subjects research through an investigation of the genetic and environmental factors that contribute to smoking behavior. We have collaborated with teachers, scientists, and ethicists to develop instructional materials that guide students through designing and implementing an epidemiological study of several hundred smokers and non-smokers of all races. StarNet provides teacher professional development on the instructional materials and supplies kits to support classroom participation.
Comment from a teacher participant in a StarNet workshop: "I appreciate how scientific and realistic everything is in this workshop/curriculum. What's even more exciting is that the students and teachers get to be part of the process. This helps create a bridge between the scientific community and education. The students can also experience the gray area and trial/errors of science instead of a cookbook lab."
High school students have participated by helping to develop questions for the study questionnaire, which collects information about subjects' environment and smoking behavior, and by genotyping research subject DNA at several candidate genes in their classrooms. We have compiled the genetic and environmental data into a database that students are using to answer their own research questions about smoking behavior.
As well as conducting research on smoking behavior, students consider ethical issues related to the research through a companion unit, The Science and Ethics of Research on Smoking Behavior. This unit was developed in collaboration with the education group of the Northwest Association for Biomedical Research NWABR. The ethics unit can also be taught as a stand-alone unit.
This project was funded by a Science Education on Drug Abuse Partnership Award (#2R25DA013180) from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, which we gratefully acknowledge.