K-12 students to present addiction research at UM-Flint, Jan. 19

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A view of the exterior of the University Center
Close to 100 eighth grade students from Holmes STEM Middle School Academy will present their research at the “Health in Our Hands: How can looking for thrills make me miserable? Health Summit.”

Addiction can present itself in many forms. Drug and alcohol dependence are highly visible forms of addiction, but other behaviors can create more pernicious effects, such as consuming junk food, spending too much time on cell phones and online gambling. The human brain is hardwired to seek out thrills, but that behavior can negatively impact an individual's quality of life.

Eighth grade students at Holmes STEM Middle School Academy in Flint have been studying these topics in the classroom and conducting their own, collaborative research on addiction. They will present their findings at the UM-Flint University Center, 10 a.m.-1:30 p.m., Jan. 19, during the "Health in Our Hands: How can looking for thrills make me miserable? Health Summit."

The project originates from the CREATE for STEM Institute at Michigan State University, which is funded by a five-year, $1.28 million Science Education Partnership Award grant from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences at the National Institutes of Health to develop a new generation of learning materials that help children and adults explore genomics (including gene-environment relationships) and evolution. The curriculum uses community-inspired project-based learning, in which students investigate critical community health concerns and use these real-world contexts to appreciate the importance of both genetic and environmental factors in their risk for disease.

After learning about addiction and substance use disorder in the classroom, students collected data about their own lifestyle behaviors during winter break, focusing on components like sleep, hygiene and diet choices. At the summit, the eighth graders will share the results of their research with a panel of judges from a variety of community and health care organizations such as the University of Michigan School of Public Health, the office of Sen. John Cherry, the Greater Flint Health Coalition and more. Judges will award certificates recognizing factors like excellence in health education and scientific research.

In addition to their presentations, students will also tour the UM-Flint campus and participate in a STEM Career Fair, during which UM-Flint faculty will share information about different educational and career pathways in STEM and health care.

Renee Bayer

"An important component of the Health in Our Hands project is introducing K-12 students to STEM careers, particularly health careers. We do that in the curriculum itself, through the students' research and through the people that they meet," said Renee Bayer, principal investigator for Health in Our Hands. "Notably, this is the first year that UM-Flint is opening up their programs and will tour with the kids. The students will all go home with big smiles and a new understanding about the possibilities in STEM and health care."

Suzanne Knight, director of K-12 partnerships at UM-Flint, said that partnering with community organizations and peer institutions to host events like the Health in Our Hands Summit is an important way for the university to fulfill its stated mission.

Suzanne Knight

"UM-Flint is committed to advancing our local and global communities through values such as excellence in teaching, student-centeredness and engaged citizenship. We are honored to provide a venue for these young minds to showcase their hard work," Knight said. "We are equally excited to show our visiting eighth graders opportunities to continue their investigations at the college level, and in the Genesee Early College before that."

While the summit officially begins at 10 a.m., research presentations will take place from noon to 12:50 p.m. in the University Center KIVA. Community organizations looking to get involved with future summits or K-12 educators interested in learning more can contact Bayer at [email protected].

Research reported in this publication was supported by the National Institute Of General Medical Sciences of the National Institutes of Health under Award Number R25GM132964. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.

Logan McGrady is the marketing & digital communication manager for the Office of Marketing and Communication.