In all his years teaching science, Jason Lazarow had never had
an assignment quite like it: presenting alcohol research to a classroom
of teenagers — in Poland. The students knew a little English,
but Lazarow does not speak any Polish. Yet despite the language
gap, Lazarow was not overly concerned about getting his message
across. He used the universally appealing medium of science: eye-catching
images, intriguing videos and fun experiments. And as he piqued
the teens' interest in alcohol studies, Lazarow allowed the science
to deliver an important health message about the consequences of
Lazarow is NIAAA's science education coordinator. He previously
taught in Montgomery County, Md., and Philadelphia, his hometown.
He now develops education and outreach programs to teach students
K-12 about alcohol science.
|Some of the Polish teens who heard Jason Lazarow (l)
speak about NIAAA’s alcohol research; they are waving mini-replicas of the human
brain that bear health messages and web links.
It was during a recent trip to showcase NIAAA resources at an
international education conference in Warsaw that Lazarow volunteered
to speak at three local schools. He met with youngsters 14 to 16
years old. And just as with audiences at home, the multimedia presentations
about alcohol's impact on health soon elicited many questions. "I
find students often have a real interest in science facts, especially
if you can show them what we're finding through cutting-edge research," he
NIAAA's science education program covers a broad range of alcohol
research, from investigations into fetal alcohol spectrum disorders
to animal studies shedding light on alcohol's effects during adolescence
and development. For some teens, understanding basic alcohol facts
can be an eye-opening lesson in terms of their own health. Lazarow
said, "The students hear what scientists know about alcohol's effects.
There's an implicit prevention message presented through scientific
Lazarow's Poland visit was sponsored by the non-profit DANA Foundation,
a New York-based group that promotes the benefits of brain research.
Lazarow presented a workshop at the annual conference of the European
League for Middle Level Education. He presented to teachers from
London, Paris, Rome and Stockholm. Some came from as far away as
Egypt and Qatar, including teachers from schools run by the Department
of Defense for the families of military personnel stationed overseas.
Lazarow told the educators about two free supplemental curriculum
kits for middle school science classes. The kits include CDs, slides,
videos, games, quizzes and laboratory experiments. One curriculum
is titled "Better Safe than Sorry." It was developed by researchers
at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill supported by
NIAAA. The other kit, called "Understanding Alcohol: Investigations
into Biology and Behavior," is a product of the NIH Office of Science
Education with whom Lazarow and other NIAAA staff collaborated.
The curriculum recently received an NIH Plain Language Award.
Additional positive feedback continues to come in from teachers
and students alike, and the DANA Foundation sponsored Lazarow on
a second trip to Europe for a teacher workshop in Rome. As he continues
to develop effective science education materials, Lazarow is considering
going back to school himself — to brush up on his foreign languages.
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