George Washington University (UNITED STATES)
About this paper:
Appears in: INTED2011 Proceedings
Publication year: 2011
Pages: 6684-6688
ISBN: 978-84-614-7423-3
ISSN: 2340-1079
Conference name: 5th International Technology, Education and Development Conference
Dates: 7-9 March, 2011
Location: Valencia, Spain
Discuss a recent project to train elementary school students to improve the health of their community, while teaching important science and life skills.

George Washington University has a long-term relationship with a rural Mexican region, providing medical and public health services, as well as, health and science education. Local elementary school students are a frequent beneficiary of these programs and enjoy helping with the campaigns and improving their community. They have boundless energy and are the future decision makers for their community.

Trash and warming trends are global concerns that are increasing the likelihood of mosquito-borne diseases but this region has no official surveillance system.

Elementary school students of all ages were divided into teams to map land around their school. They identified standing water and its causes, as well as monitoring for the presence of mosquito larvae.

The second year the students expanded their monitoring to the entire town. They identified standing water, the presence of mosquito larvae, recorded the location and appearance of the site with a portable GPS unit and a camera, picked-up trash, and discussed with the landowners the methods to eliminate the standing water.

Other activities have included participating in an interactive science fair showing water testing and treatment.

The first year, students correctly 'identified trash, especially plastic trash, as a good source for the standing water needed for the mosquito life cycle.

The second year the students' data was sufficient to galvanize local and regional health and political leaders to take action just ahead of the area's first dengue fever outbreak, a mosquito-borne infection.

Elementary school children are an underused community asset. They successfully developed a community-based early warning system for dengue fever while having fun, learning science, public health, and advocacy skills, and participating in their region's development. Helping to solve real medical and health problems encourages children to become community leaders and understand decision-making, and can help stretch community resources for the implementation of needed public health and preventive services.
Elementary School Science, Community Development, Public Health.