Community Plans Ways to Empower Students Through Science at the “Health in Our Hands Kickoff”

Submitted by Renee Bayer on

A concerned and caring community came together this past week from organizations representing health, education and community to support the young people of Flint and beyond.  On Wednesday October 24th, a new community coalition, Health in Our Hands-Flint/Genesee Partnership, highlighted an innovative project-based science curriculum, which links the classroom to the community. The group then shared ideas and ways to collaborate to support the success of the Health In Our Hands curriculum in Flint-area schools after the grant-funded program ends.

“Our common goal is to support kids in our community and connect them with the resources they need, “ commented Mary Herman from Representative Dan Kildee’s Office in her opening remarks.

Over the past 3 years, Health in Our Hands has been enacted in 6-8th grade classrooms in Flint-area schools with over 1400 students. “This project excites me more than most other projects that I have been a part of in my career as a science consultant,” said James Emmerling, Oakland County Intermediate School District. “They aren’t just learning science facts, like you and I may have been taught – the kids actually learn science, by doing science.  They are truly engaged in their own learning, because it connects to them on a personal level through diseases that touch their lives either directly or indirectly.”

Using diabetes and addiction as real-world contexts, students put to use modern concepts in genetics and environmental health to address health concerns relevant to their lives and take action to improve their community. Student learning is empowered by working with health related classroom mentors to engage them in community health research and introduce them to potential career interests. 

“Although this project is based in theory it has a practical application that our young people have taken to the next level,” said Omar Sims, Executive Community Liaison of Health Alliance Plan. Students present their results and recommendations at a health summit, giving them the opportunity to see themselves in the role of these careers by communicating real scientific research at a middle school level.

“We are now beginning an exciting new phase of this project, with community health and education partners assuming ownership of the program and committing themselves to supporting its future growth and to providing our students with expanded year-round opportunities applying their science learning to research and advocacy in the community,” said Toby Citrin, Director, Center for Public Health and Community Genomics, at the University of Michigan School of Public Health.

Health in Our Hands, funded by NIH-Science Education Partnership Award (SEPA), is lead by Michigan State University-CREATE for STEM Institute.  The kickoff event was organized by the Health in Our Hands-Flint/Genesee Partnership, a coalition of community, health, and education organizations dedicated to achieving success and sustainability of Health In Our Hands in Flint and beyond. Partnership members include Community Based Organization Partners of Flint, Flint Community Schools, Genesee Intermediate School District, Genesys Health System, Greater Flint Health Coalition, Health Alliance Plan, Michigan State University-CREATE for STEM Institute & Extension, University of Michigan-Flint Discovering Place, and University of Michigan School of Public Health.