NLM and Chickens Help Hatch a New Generation of Data Scientists

Preschoolers at Al-Hamra learn about healthy eating and dental hygiene with the help of NLM's resources.

Preschoolers at Al-Hamra learn about healthy eating and dental hygiene with the help of NLM resources and the All of Us Research Program grant.

“Chickens!” Amanda J. Wilson, head of NLM Office of Engagement and Training, said to me earlier this year.

“What about chickens?” I asked.

A school in Shrewsbury, Massachusetts, had a citizen science program funded by an All of Us grant through the National Network of Libraries of Medicine (NNLM) and apparently there were chickens.

Intrigued, I began doing research and found there were indeed chickens, but there was a bigger story—one that Wilson wanted to capture with a video. This is how our team got involved. As a writer and video producer at NLM, my job is to showcase ways that the Library impacts our world.

A sixth-grade girl uses MedlinePlus to do heart valve disease research during anatomy class.

A sixth-grade girl uses MedlinePlus to do heart valve disease research during anatomy class.

Al-Hamra Academy, a nonprofit, community-based school was the first accredited Muslim school in New England. Al-Hamra is also STEM-certified (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) so the principal Noor Ali, PhD, wanted her 170 students to have a robust science and health program. There was just one problem: The school lacked the resources to implement the program.

Then a parent from the school told Dr. Ali about an NNLM All of Us grant.

The purpose of the grant was to raise awareness about the All of Us Research Program. Intrigued, Dr. Ali submitted two proposals, one for technology and one for community engagement. These proposals encompassed everything from health and nutrition to human anatomy and data collection. The grant funds would provide educational materials and laptops to help collect data in addition to the access they already had to NLM resources such as MedlinePlus. Working closely with All of Us Coordinator Catherine Martin and NNLM New England Region Associate Director Martha Meacham, Dr. Ali identified priorities such as precision medicine and citizen science that would work for all the students—from preschool to eighth grade.

This was a story that needed telling.

With chickens and citizen science on the brain, producer John Harrington, audio technician Brian Neary, and I packed up our cameras and headed up to Shrewsbury, Massachusetts, 40 miles west of Boston.

Photo of students use supplies from the All of Us grant to collect data on plants and animals on the nature trail behind their school.

The students use supplies from the All of Us grant to collect data on plants and animals on the nature trail behind their school.

We had a full day of videotaping. The youngest children acted out the life-cycle of a butterfly and dental hygiene while the kindergartners collected eggs from the chicken coop. Older students nurtured a pollinator garden that attracted bees and butterflies that had disappeared from the area. In an anatomy class, students dissected sheep hearts while reading about heart disease on MedlinePlus.

The students amazed us with their passion for health and science and how they connected the curriculum with their community and with the world around them.

With a boost from NLM’s grants and resources, Al-Hamra Academy is preparing the next generation of data scientists and clinicians for precision health care.

Watch our video for more on this story—and to see the chickens.

Click here for a behind-the-scenes video.

By Andrew Michael Wiley, Writer/Producer in the Office of Communications and Public Liaison at NLM

One thought on “NLM and Chickens Help Hatch a New Generation of Data Scientists

  1. Pingback: Weekly Postings | The MARquee

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