Difference beyond the Classroom Making A A longtime supporter of breast cancer programs and research at Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey, the Val Skinner Foundation is celebrating one if its “best moments,” according to its namesake LPGA veteran and LiFe Founder Val Skinner, as the foundation recently launched a new partnership with Discovery education that is bringing an interactive cancer biology and genetics education curriculum created by the Rutgers Cancer Institute LIFE Center and the Rutgers School of Public Health to potentially millions of students. Funded through $750,000 from the Val Skinner Foundation, the new platform known as Decoding Cancer (Decodingcancer.org) offers a collection of standards-aligned, interactive classroom resources developed to help students and their families understand the science behind cancer, enhance science literacy and increase cancer awareness among youth. Decoding Cancer is powered by BiocONecT, a curriculum developed by the LPGA (Ladies Professional Golf Association) pros In the Fight to Eradicate breast cancer (LiFe) center at Rutgers cancer institute and Rutgers School of Public Health with support from the Val Skinner Foundation. Through the curriculum, teachers have access to nine different highly interactive lessons focusing on basic cancer knowledge and genetics, pathology and treatment, learning how to navigate results and reducing cancer risks and exploring career options. “BiocONecT has proven to be an incredibly effective tool in classrooms in pilot programs in New Jersey, South carolina and Florida. By reaching kids at a young age and educating them on the science of cancer, we are also helping them become aware of the critical importance of early detection, which is a cornerstone message of my foundation. i’m extremely pleased to see the generous giving by our donors to the Val Skinner Foundation translate into this partnership with Discovery education to propel Decoding Cancer to a national platform,” said Skinner. “With online content being more integrated as an educational tool for all ages, the Decoding Cancer platform driven by the BiocONecT curriculum is a natural extension of the traditional classroom setting, providing access to those who may not have had an opportunity to receive such vital information about cancer prevention and awareness previously,” notes Laura Liang, DrPH, cHeS, associate dean for education and assessment at Rutgers School of Public Health, who was a co-developer of the original BiocONecT curriculum. Where teachers once had to come to a ‘train the trainer’ type of course in order to learn the BiocONecT curriculum, Decoding Cancer provides an easy to use and informative platform for educators, students and families. “A key component is the ‘Virtual Lab’ which offers an answer to the age old question every student asks: when will i ever use this again? They have the chance to step into the shoes of a doctor and apply biology to a real patient situation. Putting it in this context not only makes the science understandable, but also makes it engaging, relatable, and fun,” notes Rutgers cancer institute breast medical oncologist Kim Hirshfield, MD, PhD, an assistant professor of medicine at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson medical School, who has been involved in delivering the original BiocONecT curriculum to local teachers in New Jersey. “cancer touches and deeply affects millions of people across the nation each and every day,” said mark case, science teacher at North carolina’s Guilford county Schools who uses the Decoding Cancer curriculum in his classroom. “That’s why it’s essential that we support the study of cancer in the classroom today and empower educators with engaging, dynamic tools they can easily integrate into instruction to teach their students about this topic and help them understand the emotional affects. i’m looking forward to using these cutting-edge resources in my classroom to help deepen my students’ understanding of the science behind cancer.” Before taking part in the BiocONecT curriculum, a number of New Jersey students thought having cancer always meant a poor outcome: “Now, i'm much more knowledgeable about the genetics of cancer and the treatments that are available,” noted one. And others felt the curriculum increased their overall knowledge of cancer and how to prevent it: “i learned that breast cancer is curable and that for many 26 I Cancer Connection I Autumn 2016