Environmental Health Investigators

The Environmental Health Investigators program helps prepare underserved youth in communities of southwest Illinois to pursue STEM careers and education that focus on health sciences. The program is designed for students to participate in authentic science that allows them to more fully engage in real world problems involving community environmental health. During this program, students work with SIUE staff and faculty to conduct environmental surveys of their community, learn about environmental sensing and sensors, and design and carry out a research project where they investigate a question related to environmental health in their community.

Lesson Plans

  • PhotoVoice Lesson 1: Introduction to PhotoVoice Lesson Plan and PowerPoint. Students learn how to use Environmental PhotoVoice to express their opinions through photography and narratives. They also learn the SHOWeD method, which is a structured method that prompts students to write a step by step narrative describing their photograph, what environmental concerns it represents, and how to potentially solve this concern. 
  • PhotoVoice Lesson 2: Living in Our Environment Lesson Plan and PowerPoint. Students will determine a definition for the environment and what environmental factors impact their health. They will then learn basic photography skills and practice those skills as they photograph their environment. 
  • PhotoVoice Lesson 3: SHOWeD Method Practice 1 Lesson Plan. Using the SHOWeD method, students will learn to analyze their photographs and share a comprehensive narrative describing their photography to others. 
  • PhotoVoice Lesson 4: Introduction to Environmental Health and an Environmental Health Expert Lesson Plan. Students will learn the characteristics of a healthy and unhealthy environment and will be introduced to an environmental health expert. 
  • Photo Voice Lesson 5: PhotoVoice Field Trip Lesson Plan and PowerPoint. Students will take a trip to a location in their community that represents an aspect, healthy or unhealthy, of their local environment. Students will take photographs and capture images of things that represent their environment and how the environment impacts the health of people in their community. 
  • PhotoVoice Lesson 6: SHOWeD Method Practice 2 Lesson Plan and PowerPoint. Students will review the photographs they took on their field trip and select an image that represents an aspect of their community and environment that is important to them. Students will practice the SHOWeD method with their selected images. 
  • PhotoVoice Lesson 7: Drafting a Narrative Lesson Plan. Students will convert their SHOWeD method writing into a cohesive narrative. This will allow students to share their environmental health concerns with others. 
  • PhotoVoice Lesson 8: Narrative Final Draft Lesson Plan. Students will review the importance of peer editing and expectations for the quality of a publicly shared written document. This will allow students to share their environmental health concerns with others through their finalized narrative. 
  • PhotoVoice Lesson 9: Poster Creation Lesson Plan. Students will discuss what a research poster is and create one of their own to share with others in their community. They will showcase their Environmental PhotoVoice photograph and accompanying narrative. 
  • PhotoVoice Lesson 10: Presentation Practice Lesson Plan. Students will practice presenting their Environmental PhotoVoice poster with others. The goal of the presentation is to share their environmental health concerns with others, as well as a solution they have thought of that can address their concerns.

The second semester of the Environmental Health Investigators lesson plans engages students in various types of environmental pollutants and ways to monitor these pollutants. Students will learn how pollutants can impact their health and the health of their community. After completing the second semester of lessons, students will gain background knowledge and skills to understand environmental pollutants and develop an environmental assessment plan using sensors. 

  • Measuring Skills and Tools Lesson 1: Introduction to Pollution Lesson Plans. Students learn about the different types of pollution they will study. They also engage in an activity where they experience why some pollutants are so difficult to remove from soils. 
  • Measuring Skills and Tools Lesson 2: Introduction to Noise Lesson Plans. Students learn about noise pollution, how noise pollution is measured, and how noise pollution can affect a person’s health. Students learn to use a sound meter to collect data on noise pollution that might be occurring around their school. 
  • Measuring Skills and Tools Lesson 3: Noise Pollution Lesson Plans Continued. Students learn that sound is actually energy that travels as waves. Students work with tuning forks to see how sound moves as waves and use the sound meters again to collect more sound data around their school. 
  • Measuring Skills and Tools Lesson 4: STEM Careers Lesson Plans. Students learn that people from diverse backgrounds and experiences can become scientists. 
  • Measuring Skills and Tools Lesson 5: Research and Data Introduction Lesson Plans. Students learn that data are information they can collect to tell them something about the world. Students will practice how to collect qualitative and quantitative data to answer questions.  
  • Measuring Skills and Tools Lesson 6: Soil Pollution Lesson Plans. Students learn about soil pollution, what causes soil pollution, and how soil pollution can affect a person’s health. 
  • Measuring Skills and Tools Lesson 7: Air Pollution Lesson Plans. Students learn about air pollution, what causes air pollution, and how air pollution can affect a person’s health.  
  • Measuring Skills and Tools Lesson 8: Research Project Planning Lesson Plans and Research Poster Example and Template. Students begin planning their research projects deciding the topic to study, their research question, and the data they will collect. Students review how they will present their final research projects. 
  • Measuring Skills and Tools Lesson 9: Data Collection Lesson Plans. Students collect data for their research projects and discuss the data collection process. 
  • Measuring Skills and Tools Lesson 10: Data Analysis Lesson Plans. Students learn how to analyze and interpret data using descriptive statistics. 
  • Measuring Skills and Tools Lesson 11: Communicating Data Lesson Plans and Research Poster Example and Template. Students learn how to share scientific data through research posters using tables, figures, images, descriptive statistics, and written and verbal communication. 
  • Measuring Skills and Tools Lesson 12: Presentation Preparation Lesson Plans and Research Poster Template. Students learn how to share scientific data through research posters using models, images, descriptive statistics, written, and verbal communication.

The Environmental Health Investigators Team is working with the Goshen Community Market and the Beet Box throughout the summer to distribute kits to help people in the community start healthy gardens and make healthy foods! Even if you cannot get to the Beet Box, you can always download these activities and build your own garden. 

  • Garden Starter: In this activity, you will learn the steps to grow seedlings from seeds. This is the first step to start your garden! 
  • Garden Soil Quality: In this activity, you will learn those properties of soil that plants need to grow. This steps helps you get your garden planted! 
  • Nutrition: In this activity, you will learn what the nutritional properties of the vegetables you grew, as well as some recipes you can use for a yummy way to eat your veggies! 
  • Seasonal Garden Kit: In this activity, you will learn which fruits and vegetables you can grow during particular seasons. Eating fruits and vegetables that are seasonally available is a great way to get the most nutrition out of your food, to pay less for produce, and to eat fruits and vegetables when they taste their best!

Meet Our Team

Principal Investigators

Dr. Sharon Locke is the PI of Environmental Health Investigators. She has an environmental geosciences background and has led/co-led several complex NSF-funded projects to support the participation of underrepresented groups in STEM. She oversees student program and educator workshop implementation, ensuring that scientific content and activities are aligned with evidence-based practices in STEM education.

Dr. Georgia Bracey is a PI of Environmental Health Investigators and is responsible overseeing the education research, ensuring integrity of onsite data collection, co-presenting at teacher workshops, and leading integration of formative evaluation findings into program design. Dr. Bracey was project director of a three-year Illinois Math Science Partnerships grant bringing Next Generation Science Standards training to teachers in East St. Louis, and is co-PI on a National Science Foundation grant to support the training of future elementary teachers. She has expertise in mixed-methods educational research and evaluation, and was a Chicago area classroom teacher for 13 years.

Dr. Ben Greenfield is a PI of Environmental Health Investigators and is responsible for integrating science content and environmental field research methods and exposure science concepts into the curriculum, in collaboration with project educators. Dr. Greenfield has focused on the implications of environmental contamination for human and ecosystem health. His project relevant experience includes the use of local monitoring data to characterize risk for vulnerable populations, data visualization and mapping, and methods for combining and interpreting measurements across multiple exposures.

Dr. Jennifer Zuercher is a key program faculty member responsible for guiding and facilitating community involvement. Dr. Zuercher’s current research focuses on improving health behaviors at periods of life transition. She has worked on community-based health improvement projects with adolescents through adults and has experience in community-based participatory research (CBPR).

Senior Personnel

Dr. Carol Colaninno is the project director for Environmental Health Investigators and helps to coordinate the alignment of research and student programming. Dr. Colaninno has spent the past seven years of her career developing youth-based educational curriculum much of which has focused on human-environmental interactions.

Dr. Charlie Blake is the curricular product developer and professional development specialist for the Environmental Health Investigators. Dr. Blake is an ecologists who spent several years doing field ecology and environmental education in different habitats across the country. They have an interest in citizen science and community-based participatory research.

Dr. Andreia Figueiredo Dexheimer is the research coordinator and graduate student supervisor for the Environmental Health Investigators program. Dr. Figueiredo Dexheimer is a biologist with several years of experience in animal learning research, science education, and outreach.

Ms. Candi Johnson is the project coordination for Environmental Health Investigators. She coordinates and supports all youth and educator activities, including student recruitment, curriculum design, teacher professional development co-design and co-delivery, and community partnerships. As a certified science teacher and former academic coordinator for Upward Bound, a college readiness program, Ms. Johnson has considerable experience translating health science content into grade-level and culturally appropriate activities.

Graduate Assistants

Ms. Pratigyan Bhusal earned her bachelor of science degree in environmental sciences with honors from Naaya Aayam Multi-Disciplinary Institute  College affiliated with the University of Northampton, United Kingdom. At SIUE, Prati is pursuing her masters in environmental sciences.  Prati is assisting with various projects at the STEM Center as a graduate research assistant. Prati loves studying the nature and environment.

Mr. Dwayne Ferguson graduated from Virginia State University with a bachelor’s of science degree in biology in 2019. He is currently working towards a master’s of science degree in environmental sciences at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. Dwayne helps develop and maintain our air and noise pollution monitoring network.

Mr. Josh Gifford is currently working towards a master’s of science degree in environmental sciences at Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville.  Josh currently works at the STEM Center helping to maintain our environmental health monitoring network which aims to collect air quality and noise pollution levels throughout southwest Illinois.