Meeker - Teaching & Research

Curriculum Development for Science Education Outreach

Science education outreach to North Carolina schools has been an ongoing interest of mine. Most recently, I have collaborated with Dr. Kathleen Sulik (Bowles Center for Alcohol Studies, UNC) and North Carolina middle school teachers to develop a new science and health curriculum funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), entitled, Better Safe Than Sorry. This curriculum addresses the biological basis of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) and other alcohol-related birth defects in a manner accessible to pre-teens and teens using hands-on science experiments, video tapes, CD-ROMs and games. Currently, we are carrying out the field trial of Better Safe Than Sorry in selected North Carolina school systems, with the ultimate goal of distributing the curriculum to a national audience through the NIH.

Why is it important to teach pre-teens and teens about FAS? Maternal use of alcohol during pregnancy is the leading known cause of mental retardation in our country. Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and other alcohol-related birth defects may affect as many as 50,000 births each year in this country. Yet, all of these birth defects are 100% preventable by simply abstaining from alcohol consumption during pregnancy. Despite the heightened awareness of the risks of maternal alcohol use to the developing baby, it is estimated that one out of five pregnant women still drink alcohol. The need is clear that as a society, we must "get the word out" to our young people as they are forming their life-style choices that maternal alcohol consumption puts babies at risk for birth defects. It is our hope that Better Safe Than Sorry may help meet that need.