EXCITE to take Odysseys statewide

An environmental health education program based at BGSU is spreading statewide with the help of nearly $50,000 from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency's Environmental Education Fund.

Over the last six years, Project EXCITE (Environmental health science eXplorations through Cross-disciplinary and Investigative Team Experiences) has created interdisciplinary, problem-based learning modules (units) and provided training for northwest Ohio teachers in grades 4-12.

Now, after receiving training at regional workshops, 120 teachers across Ohio will be able to use any of six of the modules, called Odysseys, in their classrooms. The state grant funding the expansion is for 27 months.

Dr. Jodi Haney, co-director of Project EXCITE, describes it as "putting materials in teachers' hands and giving them training in how to use the materials."

Those that will be going statewide deal with the issues of family versus "factory" farming; use of household chemicals; indoor air quality, and food safety. In a simulation Odyssey, students try to solve a mystery illness stemming from a field trip to a community zoo, and another, still in development, covers germs and disease transmission.

"They've been field-tested in classrooms" for at least two years each, then "expert-reviewed and revised," said Haney, environmental programs and teaching and learning. "And there will be many more to come," she added, noting that the grant "also allows us to continue to publish new Odysseys."

Project EXCITE funding from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences—about $1.8 million over seven years—will end in August 2007, "so this (new grant) is exactly what we had hoped for," she said.

Other members of the project team are Dr. Chris Keil, environmental health, who is the other co-director; Program Manager Jennifer Zoffel; educational consultant Bethany Ash, a BGSU graduate and former science teacher in Findlay City Schools, and six EXCITE "mentor teachers" who have used the materials in their classrooms. Those teachers are Rhonda Simons and Mike Wilson, both from Central Middle School in Findlay; Paula Ritter from Arcadia High School; Katie Smith from North Baltimore High School, and Marcia Reed and Cathie Ujvagi, both from St. Pius X School in Toledo.
February 13, 2006