General and Environmental Health as the Context for Science Education

  • Alla Keselman
  • Savreen Hundal
  • Catherine Arnott Smith


The “science for all” approach to science education is grounded in the view that scientific knowledge is useful in daily living and necessary for informed citizenship. At the same time, educators often feel that convincing students of the practical relevance of science education is a challenge. We propose that health, including environmental health, constitutes a scientific domain that allows easy connection to real-life issues and that making this connection is beneficial for both health and science education. The challenge lies in finding a place for health in an already crowded science curriculum and identifying effective strategies for teaching science in the health context. In the USA, health topics receive little coverage in the science classroom. Health education exists as a separate subject, or class, which provides basic facts but does not focus on complex biological mechanisms that underlie them. We suggest that while basic health facts are important and while biological knowledge alone is insufficient for behavioral change, students would benefit from deeper (than what is currently taught) understanding of biology and environmental factors that impact health. This chapter presents evidence that lack of scientific knowledge impacts individuals’ ability to reason and evaluate health information outside the school context. It also reviews educational interventions that improve students’ ability to reason about personal and socioscientific health issues by emphasizing deep conceptual understanding and informal reasoning and argumentation skills. We conclude that science education emphasizing reasoning and argumentation about general and environmental health, situated in the context of realistic situations and socioscientific dilemmas, is likely to promote scientific literacy, which can then contribute to informed citizenship and healthy personal choices.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alla Keselman
    • 1
  • Savreen Hundal
    • 1
  • Catherine Arnott Smith
    • 1
  1. 1.Division of Specialized Information ServicesNational Library of Medicine, National Institutes of HealthBethesdaUSA

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