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College of Medicine faculty member helps develop new online course for middle, high school students on ‘The Science of COVID’

A Penn State College of Medicine professor partnered with other faculty at Penn State and Northwestern University to develop a new and freely available online course for middle and high school students to learn some of the scientific practices being used by experts responding to COVID-19.

“Our curriculum was developed to give these students the knowledge and skills to be lynchpins in combatting the spread of SARS-CoV-2 within their homes, neighborhoods and communities,” said Eugene Lengerich, professor of public health sciences at Penn State College of Medicine and associate director for health disparities and engagement at Penn State Cancer Institute.

The course, called “The Science of COVID-19,” includes modules on virology, epidemiology and public health preparedness. Through short lectures and online tools, students and other users can develop a better understanding of how pandemics are studied, modeled, prepared for and mitigated.

The public health preparedness module is intended to give students an appreciation for the rationale behind interventions aimed at flattening the curve. The module uses online tools to help students learn more about their own areas and the particular vulnerabilities of their local hospitals. The students use publicly available data to calculate the rate of infection at which their county’s health care system is at full capacity for COVID-19. Students also learn how they can act locally to support those who are most vulnerable; for example, through the American Red Cross.

Matthew Johnson, assistant professor of education and research associate in the Penn State Center for Science and the Schools, led the development of the course along with Lengerich. He noted that in addition to educating and empowering students, the course also provides educators and parents with high-quality, engaging educational content.

“During the pandemic, science teachers have been forced to develop digital content due to the need to educate their students remotely,” Johnson said. “We hope that this freely available course will take some of the burden off of teachers and parents, engage students in science learning and even decrease the opportunity gap for students in poorer school districts.”

Register to receive access to The Science of COVID-19 Course

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