Community Partnership Designed to Promote Lyme Disease Prevention and Engagement in Citizen Science

J Microbiol Biol Educ. 2016 Mar 1;17(1):63-9. doi: 10.1128/jmbe.v17i1.1014. eCollection 2016 Mar.


The goal of this project is to promote Lyme disease prevention and to cultivate an interest in science through a citizen-science project coordinated by researchers at a public university and teachers at rural high schools. The lesson plan is designed to increase student interest in pursuing a science career through participation in an authentic research experience, utilizing a topic that has implications on the health of the surrounding community. Students are introduced in the classroom to zoonotic diseases transmitted by the Ixodes tick, the health risks of Lyme disease, and disease prevention strategies. Students then participate in a research experience collecting field data and ticks from their community, which are used in university research. To measure changes in student knowledge and attitudes toward Lyme disease and science careers, students completed surveys related to the learning objectives associated with the experience. We found participation in the activity increased student confidence and ability to correctly differentiate a deer tick from a wood tick and to recognize the symptoms of Lyme disease. In addition, students reported increased interest in pursuing a science degree in college or graduate school. Authentic research experience related to a disease relevant to the local community is effective at enhancing high school student engagement in science.