Open Wide and Trek Inside has several objectives. The first is to help students understand major concepts related to oral health. By focusing on the science of the oral environment, the module goes beyond the traditional "brushing and flossing" curriculum and presents to students the ways science has helped people understand how to take proper care of their mouths and the structures within.
The second objective of the module is to engage students in the nature of science through inquiry. As students ask and answer questions about their mouths, they model the process scientists use to find out more about the natural world.
Science plays an important role in assisting individuals as they make choices about enhancing personal and public health. In this module, students see that science provides evidence that can be used to support ways of understanding and treating oral health and disease. Because the mission of the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research is to improve and promote craniofacial, oral, and dental health, the Institute believes that education provides one context in which it can fulfill its mission. The lessons in this module encourage students to think about the relationships among knowledge, choice, behavior, and enhanced human health in this way:
An additional objective of this module is to encourage students to think in terms of these relationships now and as they grow older, and to use their knowledge of the oral environment to affect positive behaviors that enhance their oral health.
Elementary school science offers the perfect opportunity to integrate many areas of student interest. In this module, students participate in activities that integrate inquiry science, language arts, human health, decision making concepts, and mathematics. The personal context of the module's lessons is engaging for students, and the knowledge gained by participating in the module can be applied immediately to students' lives.
"My students are very aware of their own dental health
now—they beg to brush their teeth every day after lunch!"
Open Wide and Trek Inside meets many of the criteria used to assess teachers and their programs.
In addition, the module provides a means for professional development. Teachers can engage in new and different teaching practices, like those described in this module, without completely overhauling their entire yearlong program. In Designing Professional Development for Teachers of Science and Mathematics1, Susan Loucks-Horsley et al. write that replacement modules such as Open Wide and Trek Inside can serve that purpose and "offer a window through which teachers can get a glimpse of what new teaching strategies look like in action." By experiencing a short-term unit like this one, teachers can "change how they think about teaching and embrace new approaches that stimulate students to problem solve, reason, investigate, and construct their own meaning for the content." The use of a replacement unit like this can encourage reflection and discussion and stimulate teachers to improve their practices by focusing on student learning through inquiry.
"When we visited the dentist's office, he was amazed
how much the children knew about their mouths and dental care. Thanks to this
module, I look really good as a teacher!"