COVID-Inspired Data Science Education through Epidemiology
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic provides a starting point for empowering young people to understand uses of data science through epidemiology. Through this program, 400 underserved youth nationwide will engage in a 15-hour out-of-school multimedia program centered on a project-developed text, The Case of the COVID Crisis, which is integrated with data activities, modeling, animations, and career exploration. Participants will: 1) Learn to use data tools and models to track the spread of infectious diseases; 2) Develop an understanding of how to ask and address their own questions of data; and 3) Gain confidence in their ability to use data to study and communicate to local audiences about epidemiological challenges. The program is also aimed at encouraging youth’s interest in the myriad careers of the data-rich discipline of epidemiology. The project will achieve these goals through a multifaceted partnership involving Science Education Solutions, Tumblehome Books, Imagine Science/STEM Next, Concord Consortium, Jackson Laboratory (JAX), Strategic Learning Partners for Innovation, and the PEAR Institute (Partnerships in Education and Resilience). Datasets and tools are entering everyday usage at a rapid rate, especially during the pandemic. The project’s research breaks new ground on how youth, especially those who traditionally have not had access to data tools in school, begin using these tools to address the spread of COVID-19 and other diseases. This research is based on cultural historical activity theory, and employs a mixed methods approach involving surveys, documentation, and artifact analysis. The research will contribute to the field of data science education by: 1) Elucidating the ways in which youth use datasets and data tools to ask epidemiological questions, examine patterns, and make predictions; 2) Studying how youth become motivated to engage in work in the intersection of data science and epidemiology; and 3) Examining the affordances of a multifaceted intervention integrating pedagogical strategies, including the use of narrative, inquiry-based data activities, accessible data tools, animations, and career exploration. The project also will make an important contribution to the burgeoning area of K–12 epidemiology education by incorporating authentic, personally relevant data into out-of-school programming. This project is funded by the Innovative Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers (ITEST) program, which supports projects that build understandings of practices, program elements, contexts and processes contributing to increasing students' knowledge and interest in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) and information and communication technology (ICT) careers. This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.