Fostering Diabetes Awareness through Student STEM
November is Diabetes Awareness Month. Science Buddies has a robust collection of K-12 science projects that encourage students to explore questions about diabetes and the science behind it.
November is Diabetes Awareness Month, a month dedicated to raising awareness about diabetes, a condition in which the body either no longer produces insulin or does not properly use insulin.
Science Buddies has a robust collection of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) projects and resources that guide and encourage students to experiment with science related to diabetes. From projects about measuring glucose in foods to modeling an artificial pancreas, programming health monitoring tools and exploring the relationship between exercise and blood glucose, Science Buddies has a diverse range of scientist-authored projects and resources that help K-12 students ask and explore diabetes-related STEM questions.
Living a Science Experiment
People with Type 1 diabetes are continuously monitoring blood glucose, what they eat, insulin needs, and everyday factors like stress, exercise, sleep, and general health, all of which may affect blood glucose levels and trends. For someone with Type 1 diabetes, keeping blood glucose within safe ranges requires round-the-clock attention. The constant vigilance required may make families dealing with Type 1 diabetes feel like every day is an informal science experiment or an exercise in data gathering and data analysis. In addition, living with diabetes and observing how blood glucose responds to certain situations and conditions may lead to numerous science questions that can be turned into a student science exploration for a school or science fair project or as an informal science investigation at home.
People with Type 1 diabetes live every day with a steady stream of personal data and a constant awareness of different variables that may have an impact on blood glucose. For example, people wearing a continuous glucose monitor (CGM) see blood glucose readings every five minutes, all day long. They can see what happens to blood glucose after eating certain foods, after doing certain kinds of exercise, or during sleep. This data can be used to help prevent or treat low or high blood glucose, but the data can also be used to make changes in insulin therapy. Tracking carbohydrates, insulin doses, and blood glucose over time invites students to investigate relationships between variables and to ask questions about variables that may make a difference in insulin sensitivity or blood glucose trends. For example:
- What happens on the day you run the mile at school?
- Why does that happen even twelve or more hours later?
- Does exercise affect all people the same way?
- Why do you need more insulin at certain types of the day than others?
- What is the best way to treat low blood glucose?
- What is the duration of insulin for you?
- How far in advance do you need to pre-bolus breakfast to prevent a spike in blood glucose?
- How does a hot bath affect blood glucose?
- Are there certain foods that your body has more trouble with than others in terms of maintaining stable blood glucose?
- How can you evaluate blood glucose trends over time?
- Can counting steps help reduce insulin needs?
- What type of food is the best choice before exercise?
- What type of food is best to treat low blood glucose?
- How many carbs do you really need to treat low blood glucose?
- How much variance is there between blood glucose meters?
- What is the impact of sugar substitutes on blood glucose?
These are just a few sample questions that might arise for someone who has Type 1 diabetes or knows someone who does. Students who have Type 2 diabetes or know someone with Type 2 diabetes may be interested in similar questions. While both Type 1 and Type 2 are related to the body's production and use of insulin, Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease in which the body no longer makes insulin and requires insulin injections. Type 2 diabetes is a progressive disease in which cells do not respond to insulin as they should. Type 2 diabetes can sometimes be managed through lifestyle changes but may also require insulin.
The Value of Personal Interest
At Science Buddies, we know that students who choose projects that tie in with areas of personal interest are more likely to enjoy the science project experience and may go on to explore further or even to consider careers in STEM. Whether a student has diabetes or has a family member or friend with diabetes, students with a personal connection to diabetes often have special interest in related science projects. With the curated collection of Diabetes Science projects and resources, Science Buddies hopes to support, encourage, and enable meaningful hands-on student STEM.
The following list highlights nine projects and resources available at Science Buddies that may inspire or spark student exploration related to diabetes:
- How Sweet It Is! Measuring Glucose in Your Food
- Why Aren't All Medicines Pills?
- What are the Odds? Modeling the Chances of Getting an Autoimmune Disease
- Blood Sugar Balancing Act: How Exercise Tips the Scales
- When a Dog "Nose" Best: Scent Science
- Computer Programming for Better Health
- How Many Sugars in a Smoothie?
- Dealing with Diabetes: The Road to Developing an Artificial Pancreas
- Lactose, Sucrose, and Glucose: How Many Sugars are in Your Smoothie?
Learn More About Diabetes and Healthy Living STEM for Students
In addition to exploring projects and resources linked above, bookmark or pin the Diabetes Science collection and these posts at Science Buddies: Explore Diabetes with Student STEM and Increasing Awareness about Diabetes with Student STEM Projects.
Diabetes-related projects at Science Buddies can also be used as a starting point for further independent exploration. Check the "Make It Your Own" tab on any project idea for additional suggestions to customize a project, or use a project's procedure as a model for creating your own science project about a question you have about diabetes.
For additional student science projects and resources related to health, nutrition, obesity awareness, and human biology, see the Healthy Living STEM collection.
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