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A two-year teacher professional development program* for grades 9-12 STEM teachers

Per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are synthetic chemicals that pollute NC’s water and air and impact human health. A design team of grades 9-12 STEM teachers will collaborate with environmental health scientists to co-develop a standards-aligned curriculum unit, Investigating the human health effects of PFAS exposure. This unit will promote student engagement with research-generated data and biomedical research career opportunities and will model inclusive teaching strategies.

A program overview is provided below. For additional information, please contact Dana Haine at or (919) 843-5735.

*The IDEA Learners Design Team is part of a research study led by Dr. Kihyun (Kelly) Ryoo in the UNC School of Education. The purpose of this study is to assess the extent to which engaging teachers in iterative design processes with scientists increases their content knowledge of and self-efficacy for incorporating current biomedical science into their teaching. This study includes a professional development program with a teacher-driven curriculum development component. During the study, Design Team teachers will be asked to complete pre- and post-interviews and surveys in addition to online lesson implementation reflections. Teachers who are selected to join the IDEA Learners Design Team will be invited to participate in this research study and will be provided a consent form which more fully describes the research study and their rights as study participants. Participation in this study is voluntary, and participants may withdraw their consent at any time, without penalty. Teachers who choose to participate in the study will be asked to review, sign and return the consent form to the study team.

We expect to generate useful insights about the extent to which engaging teachers in iterative design processes with scientists increases their content knowledge and self-efficacy for incorporating current biomedical science into their teaching. We expect to describe our research results, using generic descriptors, in professional settings (such as conferences) and in publications.

This program is part of a research study approved by the UNC Institutional Review Board (IRB) on October 8th, 2021 (Study #21-1627). 

For questions about the study, contact Dr. Kelly Ryoo at 919-962-0345 or

For general questions about the research process or about being a research subject, contact the UNC IRB at 919-966-3113 or

Program Overview

In February 2022, we will announce our Design Team who will work over two-years (March 2022-March 2024) to:

    1. Co-develop instructional materials that incorporate research-generated data on PFAS alongside biomedical researchers during a two-part, in-person Design Institute that will occur in Chapel Hill, NC on the following dates (teachers must be able to attend both parts):
      • March 14 – March 15, 2022 (Mon-Tues) – Substitute reimbursement available
      • June 20- June 22, 2022 (Mon-Wed)
    2. Pilot-test instructional materials with up to three classes during the 2022-2023 academic year and participate in online check-in meetings (January and June 2023)
    3. Revise lessons and model them during a 3-day professional development institute in June or July 2023 for teachers enrolled in the 2023 IDEA Fellows Program, a companion long-duration teacher professional development program
    4. Implement revised lessons during the 2023-2024 academic year
    5. Participate in on-going research and evaluation, which may include administering student pre- and post-surveys

Design Team teachers will receive:

    1. 40+ hours of professional development designed to increase teacher knowledge of PFAS and its impacts to health and enhance STEM pedagogies. In June 2024, teachers will receive a certificate of completion documenting total contact hours of professional development towards Continuing Education Unit (CEU) credits; EE Forms (Criteria III credit) for teachers enrolled in the N.C. Environmental Education Certification Program will be available upon request.
    2. Financial compensation (up to $875/year) for participating in the activities described above.
    3. Opportunities to present and model lessons at relevant educator conferences (e.g., NCSTA) beginning in fall 2023 (travel support available).
    4. Travel and lodging expenses to support in person attendance at the 2022 Design Institutes and the 2023 Professional Development Institute, all of which will be held on the campus of UNC-Chapel Hill, in adherence with Carolina’s COVID-19 Community Standards.

This program is led by Dr. Kathleen Gray and Dana Haine in the UNC Institute for the Environment’s Center for Public Engagement with Science with support from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences through a National Institutes of Health Science Education Partnership Award (Award Number R25GM142060-01).

This project is administered by the UNC Institute for the Environment, with support from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Award Number R25GM142060-01. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the NIH.