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‘Virtual Adventure’ Helps Students Learn About Public Health

April 21, 2020
by Colin Poitras

Parents, teachers and students looking for timely science instruction while home

schooling during the coronavirus crisis can find it in a new ‘virtual adventure’ into public health being offered by the Yale School of Public Health.

The virtual program, titled Yale Pathways to Science: Public Health, features short video clips and colorful, easy-to-follow slide presentations describing the field of public health, the current COVID-19 pandemic and tips older students can use to better understand complex scientific studies in order to determine public health facts from fiction in some media reports.

The online portal to the Yale Pathways to Science: Public Health virtual adventure can be found here.

The content is targeted to students in grades six through 12. It was curated by the Yale School of Public Health’s Office of Public Health Practice and was originally intended to be used as an interactive presentation for middle and high school students in New Haven, West Haven and Orange public schools. The presentation, part of a planned “Public Health Day” sponsored by the Yale Office of New Haven Affairs, was recently cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic. So instead, officials are repurposing it as a free online educational aid for any student, parent or teacher to use.

“After months of planning, we were really looking forward to Public Health Day and so disappointed when we had to cancel,” said Claudia Merson, Yale’s director of public school partnerships. “It’s such a rich and important field to introduce to young people. The silver lining is that the dean, faculty, staff and students created a fantastic online set of videos charts and slides that now can be viewed by so many beyond the confines of our campus.”

The public health virtual adventure allows students to explore different pathways of public health at their own pace. One path focuses on a general overview of public health. Students learn what public health is, what public health workers do and some of the field’s major accomplishments.

Public health has been defined as “the science and art of preventing disease, prolonging life and promoting physical health.” Those in the field of public health work to protect the environment, teach healthy behaviors, conduct research and prepare for epidemics and disasters. Public health’s contributions to society include vaccination programs, control of infectious diseases, safer motor vehicles and roads, decreased tobacco use and fluoridated drinking water.

Yale School of Public Health Dean Sten Vermund encourages students to consider careers in public health.

“I find public health to be endlessly interesting,” Vermund said in a short video introducing the Pathways tutorials. “Each and every day, we’re trying to save lives by the thousands, tens of thousands, even millions at a time.”

The more detailed scientific presentations about coronavirus and COVID-19 look at the disease’s origins, treatment and prevention. The health communication pathway explores some of the more intricate aspects of scientific studies and what different findings mean through the use of TED-Ed instructional videos.

Production of the Yale Pathways to Science: Public Health virtual adventure was led by Chandra Kelsey, MPH, CHES, of the Office of Public Health Practice and Alecia Mclean, a student intern for the office from Southern Connecticut State University. Additional assistance and support were provided by Susan Nappi, executive director of the Office of Public Health Practice, and Kate Nyhan, research and education librarian for the Yale School of Public Health.

The Yale Pathways to Science program is a free program sponsored by Yale University that is designed to encourage and support young scholars to pursue careers in the STEM fields of science, technology, engineering and math. The more than 1,800 Pathways to Science Scholars currently enrolled in the program are considered the youngest members of Yale’s scientific community. They are invited to attend special events, academic lectures, hands-on activities and research opportunities.

Once accepted into the program, students are welcome to attend programs through their high school graduation and beyond. The program incorporates all science fields, not just public health. In past years, students involved in the program have launched rockets, built telescopes and examined brain specimens with Yale neuroscientists.

Submitted by Sayuri Gavaskar on April 21, 2020