Developing a science outreach program and promoting "PhUn" all year with rural K-12 students.

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Department of Kinesiology and Integrative Physiology


Demonstrating how science relates to human health is an important step for generating K-12 student interest in health-related careers. Science outreach is often performed in urban areas; however, ~20% of K-12 schools are in rural areas. Michigan Technological University is located in Michigan's upper peninsula, which accounts for 30% of the state's land mass but only 3% of the total population. Our goal was to create a science outreach program for reaching K-12 students in our rural region. We assembled a team of undergraduate and graduate students, staff, and faculty to implement science outreach with K-12 students. Specifically, we leveraged existing national and international science outreach events [Physiology Friday, Physiology Understanding (PhUn) Week, National Biomechanics Day] to offer hands-on physiology and biomechanics activities during the year. Between 2016 and 2019, we connected with 31 K-12 schools and impacted 327 elementary (19%), 351 middle school (21%), and 1,018 high school (60%) students (total impact 1,696). Over 90% of the outreach visits took place at the K-12 schools. The hands-on activities were delivered by more than 85 undergraduate and graduate students and 10 faculty. Together, the supportive culture and resources within the department (e.g., outreach coordinator, participation from students and faculty, grant funding) were key to developing the program. We recommend starting with a single outreach event, working as a team, and being flexible with K-12 schools. The program also provided service-learning and professional development opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students and faculty. Our robust science outreach program promoted "PhUn" all year-round with rural K-12 students.

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Advances in physiology education