Increasing Awareness about Antibiotic Use and Resistance: A Hands-On Project for High School Students
Health-promoting education is essential to foster an informed society able to make decisions about socio-scientific issues based on scientifically sustained criteria. Antibiotic resistance is currently a major public health issue. Considering that irrational antibiotic use has been associated with the development and widespread of antibiotic resistant bacteria, educational interventions to promote prudent antibiotic consumption are required. This study focuses on the outcomes of an interventional program implemented at the University of Porto, Portugal, to promote awareness about antibiotic resistance at high school levels (15–17 year old). The project Microbiology recipes: antibiotics à la carte articulates a set of wet and dry lab activities designed to promote the participants’ understanding of concepts and processes underlying antibiotics’ production and activity, such as the notion of mechanisms of action of antibiotics. Following a mix-method approach based on a pre−/post design, the effectiveness of this project was assessed by gathering data from surveys, direct observation and analysis of artifacts of 42 high school students (aged 15 and 16 years). The results indicate that the participants developed a more comprehensive picture of antibiotic resistance. The project was shown to promote more sophisticated conceptualizations of bacteria and antibiotics, increased awareness about the perils of antibiotic resistance, and enhanced consciousness towards measures that can be undertaken to mitigate the problem. The participants regarded their experiences as enjoyable and useful, and believed that the project contributed to improve their understanding and raise their interest about the issues discussed. Furthermore, there were also improvements in their procedural skills concerning the laboratory techniques performed. This study evidences the possibility of increasing high school students’ awareness about the consequences of antibiotic resistance and the importance of judicious antibiotic use. The findings inform about the educational benefits of incorporating hands-on activities in science education programs.