EDGE Center hosts ATHENA Teacher Workshop for Washington Health & CTE teachers

What is environmental health? That was the first question for 20 high school health and career and technical education (CTE) teachers from Washington State who attended the EDGE Center Academy for Teaching about Health and Environment Associations (ATHENA) Teacher Workshop on August 2-3, 2016. The teachers came from Selah, Sunnyside, Wenatchee, Moses Lake, Kenniwick, Blaine, Olympia, Puyallup, Gig Harbor, Mukilteo, Edmonds, Shoreline, Tukwila, Bellevue and Seattle

The teachers weren’t all clear in the beginning, but by the end of the workshop everyone knew that environmental health is the effect of anything from outside our bodies on human health - air, water, food, pesticides, UV light, drugs, chemicals, vitamins, stress, and on and on. They also learned that environment + genetics + choices interact to affect our health. 

Dr. Rose James talked to teachers about cancer.
Over two days, the teachers met six University of Washington Department of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences (UW DEOHS) scientists who discussed environmental health topics ranging from nutrition, vitamins, cancer and lung health, to ethics. 

One topic of particular interest was electronic cigarettes, as students are using them but many teachers don't know much about them. There were many questions about the health effects of using electronic cigarettes, or vaping, but we couldn't answer them yet because the FDA has only begun to regulate and study Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS). One teacher wondered, "Which is better, smoking or vaping?" PhD candidate David Scoville hesitated to choose - the best choice, he said, is not to use at all.  

Electronic Cigarettes and E-Juices
The American Lung Association's Beverly Stewart presented about kids and tobacco, describing various tobacco products such as e-cigarettes and hookah, and smokeless tobacco products that include strips, orbs, sticks and chewing tobacco. Beverly discussed tobacco marketing, showing teachers that tobacco products are packaged to look like candy and observing that tobacco products are displayed in convenience stores at a 10-year-old's eye level. Kids don't like to be fooled, she said. Talking with them about tobacco marketing is one strategy to discourage tobacco use: "Look how low that display for electronic cigarettes is. I can hardly read that. Whose attention do you think they're trying to get when they put it down so low?"

Teachers visited the Xu lab
Young researchers explained their work
 The teachers also toured  Libin Xu’s research lab in the UW Department of Medicinal Chemistry and listened to PhD students and post-docs describe their projects studying lipids. 

Teachers worked in small groups
ATHENA-trained teachers Lindzee Alvarez and Tori Marcum from the Bellevue School District introduced ATHENA environmental health classroom lessons about Sugars and Artificial Sweeteners, GMO Salmon, UV Exposure and Sunscreen, Electronic Cigarettes, and Ethics. The teachers were given lesson plans and resources as well as classroom kits for two of the lessons. The ATHENA curriculum is posted on the website and can be downloaded for free.

The teachers appreciated being able to talk with the researchers and also trying out the environmental health lessons alongside practical suggestions for the classroom from experienced teachers Marcum and Alvarez. 

Here are a few comments from the teachers:
Teachers listen to a UW presenter
I feel so fortunate to have been able to attend the workshop. Looking forward to trying the lessons in class this year ... I appreciate your enthusiasm for education. I can't wait to incorporate the lessons that were taught ... I have been telling everyone how much fun the workshop was. Thanks for a lovely, educational time ... ATHENA is a wonderful program that changed the way I teach environmental education. It is now part of our daily class discussion instead of just a few lessons over the semester.                                                                                                                                                    --Marilyn Hair