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March 28, 2003

School Launches Website for Teachers on Global Environmental Change and Our Health

Explores The Connection Between The World’s Threatened Ecology And The Emergence Of New Health Risks

Global Environmental Change and Our Health is a website from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health that examines new and established linkages between human diseases and deteriorating environmental conditions on a global scale. Geared to middle-school students and educators, the site delivers scientific information in a kid-friendly, engaging, and visually vibrant manner. The website is augmented with high quality streaming video clips, through a partnership with the Journey To Planet Earth television miniseries, which will be hosted and narrated by actor Matt Damon and air on PBS in March and April 2003. In addition, the site contains National Science Education Standards-based lesson plans, developed by PBS TeacherSource – specialists in web-based lesson plan development for K-12.

The Global Environmental Change and Our Health website features five thematic areas—“Taking Our Temperature” (global climate and environmental change), “Hole in the 'Zone” (stratospheric ozone depletion), “Unbalancing Act” (biodiversity loss and land-use change), “What’s Left to Eat?” (food and water scarcity), and “Our Small World” (globalization and transboundary pollution). The first two themes are online now, and “Unbalancing Act” will launch soon to tie-in with the April 9, 2003, airing of the film documentary episode “Hot Zones” from PBS’s Journey To Planet Earth. The final two content areas will be available in Summer 2003.

“The idea for the site grew from enthusiastic feedback following some of my public lectures on global environmental health,” said Jonathan Patz, MD, MPH, assistant professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “ 'Kids should really learn about how environmental change in different parts of the world can affect their own health,' ” was the comment I often heard.”

Dr. Patz followed through on this advice and launched this initiative with a start-up grant from the Gottesman Fund, followed by additional private and federal grant support. “The site is very exciting for students because it deals with serious and very current topics,” said Dr. Patz. “But it also shows middle-school students how to have fun with the visual elements and discover what potential solutions exist for alleviating the effects of global climate and ecological change.”

The website builds upon the content from Johns Hopkins course material and scientific papers and reflects the complex relationships between our environment and our health. An array of visual elements, including streaming video, photographs, animations, graphs, charts and maps, detail each section from national and international agencies. Numerous links throughout the site connect to data-rich sources that can be used for homework, papers, science projects, or lesson plans. A specialized "Glossary" for students and teachers is available, as well as a "Questions and Answers" section.

“For Teachers” is a special area that explains how to use the site in instructing middle school students and provides lesson plans and education standards covered by each section of the website. Regular updates will be added to the website to provide visitors with the latest information and scientific discoveries on the health effects of global environmental change.

Highlights from each chapter

Unique Team Behind the Website

Dr. Patz served as science advisor and project leader for the website team. He is past co-chair of the health expert panel for the U.S. National Assessment on Climate Change, and current Convening Lead Author for the United Nations Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, and has written over 75 publications, including one textbook on health risks stemming from global climate and ecological change. Dr. Patz brought onto the project noted science educators Steve Tomecek, aka “The Dirtmeister®,” and Marjorie Share. Mr. Tomecek has served as consultant for 3-2-1 Classroom Contact and the Newton’s Apple television shows, written over two dozen science books for both children and teachers, and starred in the Emmy award-winning television series Dr. Dad’s Phantastic Physical Phenomena. He digested the numerous scientific papers and reports and adapted the information to make it more accessible.

Award-winning educator Marjorie Share, former director of education at the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Services (SITES) and past education advisor to the founding director of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, was the educator, writer, and director of web content for this project. Ms. Share, best known for an interdisciplinary approach that integrates traditional and new technologies, has produced over 200 products and programs for foundations, corporations, universities, museums, and international agencies. Sonnett Dunstan Media Group, LLC, an award-winning company that creates interactive, educational and promotional online projects, conceived and executed the website development and production, and built technical sophistication into the site.

The Global Environmental Change and Our Health website has been funded by The Gottesman Fund, The New York Community Trust, The Overbrook Foundation, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, The Consortium for Conservation Medicine, Wildlife Trust, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and MetLife.

Public Affairs Media Contacts for the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health: Tim Parsons or Kenna Brigham at 410-955-6878 or paffairs@jhsph.edu. Photographs of Jonathan Patz are available upon request.