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Science Education Against Drug Abuse Partnership (SEADAP)


We have recently received a $1M grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse to develop and implement an educational program called SEADAP (Science Education Against Drug Abuse Partnership) to teach students in grades 6-12 about how commonly abused drugs (e.g. caffeine, sugar, alcohol, nicotine) work in the brain to produce addiction. SEADAP is founded on our extensively published research at Temple University demonstrating that aquatic flatworms called planarians demonstrate addictive-like behaviors to substances such as alcohol, nicotine, caffeine and sugar contained in products (e.g. energy drinks such as Red Bull, coffee, frappuccinos, cigarettes, beer, liquor) that children and adolescents can encounter in their everyday lives. The novelty of SEADAP is that it is the first educational program that uses living animals to teach middle and high school students about the science of drug addiction and hazards of using addictive substances, making it entirely different from past programs such as DARE and Life Skills. The principal investigator of the project, Dr. Scott Rawls, has published 25 peer-reviewed articles demonstrating the scientific relevance of planarians to drugs of abuse, and 11 of those articles were co-authored by local high school students who conducted the research and participated in the publishing process. Planarians have a simple brain and produce chemicals that contribute to addiction in human patients and are ideal for broad-scale learning in a 6-12 environment because they are cheap, easy to use, and amenable to employing hands-on, inquiry-based lesson plans that enable students to quantify actual human-like behavioral responses to drugs of abuse, including dependence, withdrawal, anxiety, tolerance, drug-seeking, relapse, and changes in activity. Our lessons allow students to simulate roles of medical researchers by creating and testing their own hypotheses to study the science that underlies drug addiction. We hope to let students reach their own conclusions through inquiry, experimentation and guided discussions and to spark their interest in biomedical research as a career, expand their understanding of how science is applied in the real world, and educate them about medical, economic and criminal costs of drug abuse.


Science Education Drug Abuse Partnership Award (SEDAPA): Supported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and Office of Director (OD) within the National Institutes of Health


The program has an appropriate balance of basic science, science education and assessment and is being led by: Dr. Scott Rawls, Principal Investigator, who is a basic scientist, former high school teacher and tenured faculty member at Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University; Dr. Rhea Miles, a science education expert and tenured faculty member at East Carolina University; Kathleen Mooney, an assessment specialist with SERVE out of UNC-Greensboro; and Dr. Sara Ward, a basic scientist at Temple.


No financial cost will be imparted to participating schools. The grant provides resources for all lessons, stipends for participating teachers, and funding for substitute teachers if professional development workshops occur on a school day. Teacher commitment includes attending a 2-day professional development workshop in the Feb-April 2015 time frame, subsequent implementation of 1-3 lessons with students in their classrooms, and a 1-day post-implementation and assessment workshop over the summer of 2015. Teachers will be paid a stipend of $200 for the completion of 2 face-to-face workshop sessions, $200 for completed implementation of the SEADAP-developed lesson plan in the classroom, and $100 for the completion of the 1-day post-implementation face to face session over the summer (for a total of $500). The scheduling of the initial 2-day workshops is flexible and can be adjusted to the convenience of teachers (e.g. 2 weekdays from 8-4, a Friday-Saturday combination, or 2-3 long afterschool sessions of 3-8 PM). Workshops can be held at Lewis Katz School of Medicine or at a local school depending on the number of teachers and their preferences.

Workshops will cover key aspects of the program, including presentations about the basic science of drug addiction and pharmacology of drugs of abuse and demonstrations showing effects of drugs of abuse on planarians. Time will also be provided time for teachers to conduct experiments with planarians to begin formulating their lesson plans and designing rubrics (note: we have already developed lesson plans tailored to middle or high school students). Lessons are designed to align with common core and PST standards and can be followed in a “recipe” like fashion, or teachers can use them as a starting point to improvise their own lesson plans using the basic components of the program. Each lesson generally consists of three components: an initial discussion/introduction of background information, a demonstration of the experimentation to the students by the teacher, and actual experimentation by the students. Each component of the lesson should take about 45 minutes of classroom time and can be used to reinforce all core standards in science, technology and engineering education. The assessment component for teachers consists of: a) administering a pre-/post-test to their students to measure increases in student awareness/knowledge, b) allowing SERVE staff to observe student use of planarians in the classroom, and c) providing feedback regarding their experience in the SEADAP program (via surveys, focus groups, and/or interviews).

 Publications Related to Planarians

For Teachers and Students


Scott Rawls, PhD
Principal Investigator
Office: 215-707-4942

Visit the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) website for information about drug addiction and commonly abused drugs.