BY ALICE DETERS
While the Opioid Crisis is making headlines across the United States, communities in and around Cincinnati have been hit particularly hard. “Growing Community Change Researchers in STEM”, a project funded by a Science Education Partnership Award by the National Institute of Health, aims to let student researchers gain real world research experience as they investigate innovative ways to address the opioid crisis within their communities.
For this project, “Growing Community Change Researchers in STEM” will be working with students and teachers at two high schools. One is Princeton High School in Cincinnati and the other is Manchester High School in Manchester Ohio.
Though the project is only in its early stages, it has been particularly meaningful for a variety of reasons. Many of the student researchers have first-hand experience with the harmful impacts of opioid use. They shared stories of how their family members struggled with opioid use and explained how increased opioid use impacted their schools and communities. This first-hand experience is central to the mission of this project: We believe that these students have the answers as to what it will take to alleviate the impacts of drug addiction in their communities. We want to give them the tools to bring those theories to life.
Also central to this project is the desire to increase representation of African American and rural Appalachian students and teachers into STEM and research communities. Both of these populations are underrepresented in STEM and research communities. We hope that this project will allow students and teachers to develop research skills, and increase underrepresented populations’ desires to pursue college degrees and careers in STEM and research. Students and teachers will be learning a variety of Community-Based Participatory Research methods that they will employ in their projects.
The students joined us at UC in May for a Research Kickoff Day. While they were here, the students participated in a variety of activities to help get them excited about the project and get them thinking about their research questions. They participated in a Group Level Assessment about their views on research, science and drug addiction. They heard from a number of speakers, including our researchers, Dr. Farrah Jacquez and Dr. Lisa Vaughn, drug addiction expert Dr. LaTrice Montgomery, and local activist Christina Brown.
The students also participated in a Digital Storytelling project, where each student made short videos explaining how drug abuse and addiction has impacted them, their families, and their schools/communities. We wanted students to get a chance to tell their story, develop their voice, and we hoped that this would help guide their individual research projects.
Teachers also spent the two days participating in their own kick-off events. They spent their time working on ideas for curriculum development for the school year.
We can’t wait for the students to get back to school in August so we can begin working on their research projects. We can’t wait to see what kinds of research questions they choose to investigate, and we love that their stories and voices will get a chance to shine in whatever project they choose!
To learn more about this project: http://www.artsci.uc.edu/news/research-stem.html