This is the most functional unit I’ve taught in 15 years. It’s one that allows kids to create something they can see in the real world. It outlives the moment, and gives kids a reason to proudly say, “Hey everyone, come check out my trellis!”– Ilana Lowe, fourth & fifth grade teacher
It’s been an eventful year at BSCS Science Learning. This spring, we released two major instructional materials programs for middle and high school students nationwide, including our new flagship biology program, BSCS Biology: Understanding for Life.
We are also making moves to engage younger learners.
Emily Harris is one of several BSCS research scientists who is particularly invested in transforming science teaching and learning at the elementary level. Emily began her career in education by running school gardens, and she has championed place-based science learning ever since. A couple years ago, she had an idea to support elementary teachers in meeting the “engineering design” expectations of the Next Generation Science Standards—by returning to her roots.
So she partnered with Life Lab, a leader in school garden education in Santa Cruz, California, and secured funding from the US Department of Agriculture to create Engineering in the Garden.
This program helps upper elementary teachers and garden educators engage students in designing solutions to address real-world problems that arise in schoolyards and school gardens. And now, teachers like Ilana Lowe are confidently facilitating robust outdoor learning experiences in which students research, design, and build full-size trellises to support climbing pea plants.
Ilana admits she had some skeptical students at the start. Nine-year-old Cheryl was worried that her ideas would be ignored. Theo, a history and English buff, was not interested in building things. And Antonio felt frustrated as he failed to tie the knots properly. Ilana found it incredibly endearing to watch her students become better communicators and collaborators along the way.
Cheryl told Ilana that she learned what it means to share and consider all ideas in a safe space. Theo says he learned that the iterative process of designing, building, and revising is much like the writing process—and now he feels a different connection to science. And Antonio says he learned that his classmates, who helped him figure out how to tie the knot, can be great teachers too.
These lessons will serve the students well as they continue on to middle school science—where maybe we’ll meet them again. Either way, we will keep embracing every opportunity to impact young learners.
And we hope to continue doing this work, especially where it’s needed most, in partnership with friends like you. Will you make a donation to support today’s science educators and learners?
Daniel C. Edelson
BSCS Executive Director
This Collaborative Project Will Result in Completion of Full K-12 Science Program by 2026
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – October 13, 2022 – OpenSciEd’s suite of high-quality K-12 science materials is growing once again – this time in service of the country’s youngest science learners. This fall, OpenSciEd will launch the development of an elementary science program, designed to support teachers in engaging students’ natural curiosities and interests about the world.
The complete (grades K-5) program will meet the Next Generation Science Standards(NGSS) and include ELA/literacy and math integrations. It will be freely available by spring 2026.
Northwestern University will lead a developers consortium – including BSCS Science Learning, Carolina Biological Supply Company, Horizon Research, Inc., Michigan State University, Oakland University, and The University of Texas at Austin – to create, field-test, revise, and publicly release units over the next four years. The consortium will also provide professional learning opportunities and open source resources to address the pressing needs of elementary teachers and support their effective implementation of the science materials.
“Our elementary classrooms need to be places where students see the science they are learning as addressing questions and problems they care about,” says Northwestern University’s Brian Reiser. “We are excited to work with our development partners, teacher collaborators, and state leaders to develop the instructional materials and professional learning resources to make this vision a reality for K-5 students and teachers.
A nine-state steering committee and science teachers and students across 300 classrooms will be critical partners in this work. As teachers prepare to help write and test materials in class, students will have a voice in sharing what phenomena intrigues them. Kindergarteners may wonder why their playground equipment gets hot when it’s sunny outside, while second graders want to know why polar bears don’t live nearby. Fourth graders might be curious about why things wash up on beaches. As in the OpenSciEd middle school now available, and the OpenSciEd high school materials now in development, OpenSciEd K-5 units will help students build key science ideas and practices that connect to the problems and questions students identify.
A group of experts will also be dedicated to incorporating equitable sensemaking strategies throughout the program. The resulting units will not just be designed to engage some students, they will be designed to engage all – particularly students from underserved communities.
“We believe elementary students should engage with science in ways that spark curiosity, deepen their understanding of the world around them, and foster their own identities,” said Erin Hahimoto-Martell, acting associate commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. “As a state partner, we look forward to participating in the development of the OpenSciEd curriculum, a key resource to support our elementary educators in the teaching of science. We are excited by the developer consortium’s commitment to equity and the deep knowledge and experience they bring around science instruction.”
The elementary program is funded by the Carnegie Corporation of New York (CCNY), the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, and the Walton Family Foundation.
The release of this program in 2026 will also mark the completion of OpenSciEd’s full K-12 science program.
“OpenSciEd’s partnership between states, teachers, learning scientists, curriculum developers, and philanthropy has brought tremendous quality and accessibility to the middle grades science market. And today, 40,000 middle school teachers are engaging their students in meaningful and equitable science learning,” said James Ryan, executive director of OpenSciEd. “High school students and teachers will benefit from this partnership starting this winter. And with this announcement, we are thrilled to be letting our elementary colleagues know that their turn is just around the corner.”
You are invited to an inside look at BSCS Science Learning’s latest innovation in instructional materials design! Join BSCS’s Dr. Lindsey Mohan and Cindy Gay as they introduce Anchored Inquiry Learning during an exclusive webinar.
Wednesday, September 28, 2022
1:30–2:30 p.m. (MT)
At BSCS, we dream of a scientifically literate society. Every day, for decades, we have worked closely with science educators, scientists, and organizations across the country who share this dream. Together, we have engaged students in inquiry-based learning experiences that transcend the classroom. And this year, we are rolling out a new instructional model designed to bring all young learners the scientific knowledge and skills they’ll need for life in today’s complex world.
Tune into this webinar to discover:
- How BSCS’s 60+ year journey toward a scientifically literate society has led to the introduction of Anchored Inquiry Learning in classrooms today.
- What makes Anchored Inquiry Learning transformative and distinct in a family of outstanding phenomenon-driven models.
- How students, teachers, leaders, and parents are responding to this new Anchored Inquiry Learning approach.
- What’s next in our shared journey as scientists, educators, learners, and innovators.
This webinar is specially developed and free for BSCS friends. Your support is always appreciated.
Questions? Please contact Lauren Novo at [email protected].
BSCS remains committed to students, teachers, and their communities, and to the ongoing work of building science education for a more just and sustainable world. But learning cannot happen if teachers and students don’t feel safe. No teacher should ever have to consider how they would react if a murderer walks into their classroom with a weapon aimed at their students. Columbine, Sandy Hook, Parkland, Uvalde – these are not isolated events, they are symptoms of an urgent public health epidemic. Gun violence has surpassed vehicle collisions as the leading cause of death among schoolchildren in our country. This statistic is shocking. On top of this, the anxiety and fear instilled in this generation of students and teachers has created a cascade of mental health crises that will be with us for decades. We cannot remain silent as teaching and learning becomes untenable. We urge policymakers to make the health and well-being of students and teachers their priority.
I have been very fortunate to meet amazing women trying to make progress in science. It has been easy for me to encourage and empower them in their career, just by explicitly recognizing their excellent skills and aptitudes.– Dr. Carolina Vera
Each Darwin Day, BSCS celebrates the impact of Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution. We also celebrate the unlimited possibilities of what a diverse and inclusive scientific community can achieve. So now, we use this occasion to highlight scientists who at times have been overlooked or undervalued due to their positions in society.
Carolina Vera is one such scientist. Today she is one of the most influential meteorologists and climate scientists in South America. And it’s because during her childhood in Argentina, she often wondered “why.” Why were some summers hot and dry, with little to no rain? Why were others filled with flooded fields? With plenty of encouragement from her mother, she was inspired to investigate.
Carolina’s research focuses on climate variability and simulation—and has been applied to help improve mathematical models used to make forecasts. She also serves as a leader on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and contributes to knowledge on our capacity for climate resilience. Perhaps most importantly, she uses her position to advocate for underrepresented groups of scientists.
As a female scientist in South America, she has experienced her fair share of challenges. There were times when she was the only woman in a meeting and felt pressure to prove that she deserved to be there based on merit, not representation. There were other times when she was asked not to speak up if it meant contradicting her male peers. But with a strong female support system of her own, she overcame these challenges and has become an important voice for other female climate scientists.
At BSCS, we made a commitment long ago to educate students about the science they need for life. That includes both evolution and climate science. Today, we are equally committed to educating all students about the value of their voices in the scientific community. As we face some of the most pressing societal challenges of any generation, we need more scientists like Carolina Vera—scientists who are advancing the field through innovation and inclusion.
Daniel C. Edelson
BSCS Executive Director
Over its 60+ year history, BSCS has had only a few opportunities to create a brand new high school biology program. When we learned two years ago that we were getting that opportunity again, we decided to focus on how to prepare students for life in our complex, interconnected world.– Dr. Daniel C. Edelson, BSCS Executive Director
Think back to high school biology class. Were you a dutiful student who took careful notes on your teacher’s lectures and textbook readings? Did an ability to memorize facts allow you to earn an A?
If so, you probably would have found BSCS Science Learning’s new high school biology program frustrating. At least at first. Like Sam, a student in Jim Lane’s class, did.
Jim Lane, a high school biology teacher in Minnesota, is one of the first educators to use BSCS Biology: Understanding for Life. He’s had his fair share of students, like Sam, begging for lectures and notes at the start of Unit 1–to which he responds, “Nope!”
In this unit, students learn about Zach, a healthy boy who becomes deathly ill with an antibiotic-resistant bacterial infection. At first, students only know that Zach’s medication isn’t helping. As they follow Zach’s journey, they do the work themselves to figure out why bacterial infections make us sick, and why they are becoming harder to treat.
At the beginning of the year, the only thing Sam was interested in “figuring out” was how to get an A. Sam had learned how to play the school game of listen, read, and retain. But in Jim’s class, he was being challenged to investigate. And he was being asked to share his ideas in drawings. This approach was different. And it required a different kind of work. Sam didn’t like it.
Jim admits, “It’s hard to articulate why you know something, not just what you know. But this modeling process challenges students to understand their own thinking in this way.” As Sam learned more, he was able to include more details in his drawings, and he became more comfortable with figuring things out for himself. He started to understand science, not just know science. This new approach enabled him to uncover a larger story about bacterial infections and antibiotic resistance. And ultimately, it changed how he makes sense of complex ideas.
Faith Nelson, a teacher in Illinois, has one student who is already using her deeper understanding of biology to take action in the real world. Amy recently took to a doctor’s appointment a checklist of questions about infections that she and her classmates developed as part of this unit. After the doctor ran the same immune response tests Amy learned about, they had an informed discussion about the antibiotic her doctor prescribed.
And that’s what our new biology program is about–preparing students for life in the 21st century. In their lifetimes, today’s students will face pressing societal challenges like antibiotic-resistant infections that will require them to have scientific understanding. Sadly, these societal challenges affect underserved communities disproportionately. So how do we ensure all students from all backgrounds are prepared for life in the 21st century?
At BSCS, we believe science education is the key. We have a 60-year history of research-driven innovation. And right now, we are focused on bringing our programs to districts and schools that are being left behind. Your support is critical as we strive to innovate and broaden access to outstanding science teaching and learning. Will you support this priority with a donation today?
Daniel C. Edelson
BSCS Executive Director
Help us design a climate education unit that your students will find interesting and connects to your community’s priorities.
If you are a high school teacher, please ask your high school students to complete this survey. By administering this survey to your high school students, you agree that BSCS may use student responses to inform the development of a new unit. In addition, administering the survey to students implies that you have permission from your school administrators to do so.
You may access the High School Student Survey here.
If you would like to share your opinion as an educator, parent, and/or community member, please use the adult survey link below.
The Adult, Parent, Educator Survey can be accessed here.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – Sept. 15, 2021 – BSCS Science Learning and Kendall Hunt are pleased to announce BSCS Biology: Understanding for Life, the next generation in a line of BSCS Biology programs. This newest offering meets the needs of a changing discipline and is ready for implementation now through a staged release process during the 2021-22 school year.
Understanding for Life advances the mission of BSCS to transform science teaching and learning through research-driven innovation by integrating the three-dimensional disciplinary shifts called for in the latest Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).
This full-year, high school level biology program presents inquiry-based, research-driven curriculum that has been designed for the (NGSS). Real-world phenomena and challenges motivate learning of scientific concepts and practices, enabling students to build a deep understanding of life science that will serve them for life. Understanding for Life’s labs, activities and assessments build 21st century collaboration skills while allowing teachers to track students’ progress toward science learning outcomes.
BSCS Executive Director Danny Edelson said, “This program is the next step for BSCS and for high school biology teachers across the country. In it, we have combined the rigor and inquiry that teachers expect from BSCS with the three-dimensional pedagogical approach called for by the Next Generation Science Standards.”
“Throughout the years, Kendall Hunt has been proud to work with BSCS to emphasize the development of students’ problem-solving and inquiry skills through programs such as A Human Approach and Science Tracks,” said Kendall Hunt K-12 Vice President Charley Cook. “The addition of Understanding for Life strengthens our science offerings as well as meets the needs of classrooms nationwide.”
At 95 years old, Ed Drexler still remembers what it was like to teach high school biology in the 1950s. “Biology was based on a rhetoric of conclusions. Everything was ‘known,’ and I was simply teaching what we knew.” What most students learned was how to memorize facts from the textbook.
Things changed when BSCS entered the scene in 1958. Drexler pilot tested BSCS’s first biology program and investigated countless unknowns with his students. “I loved the idea of teaching students science from an inquisitive point of view, as opposed to lecturing them on supposed ‘facts.’ This was a much better way of teaching. Kids would leave my class with both more knowledge and more questions.”
Six decades later, BSCS is still helping teachers bring inquiry-based science learning to their students, but the world we are preparing them for feels more complex.
That’s why we’re conducting rigorous research to understand “what works” in 21st century science classrooms. We’re supporting teachers with effective instructional approaches and programs that maximize student curiosity and engagement in science. And we’re preparing students to use science throughout their lives, in response to today’s most pressing societal challenges.
For example, Senior Research Scientist Brian Donovan is exploring the role science education can play in reversing two societal challenges: racist and sexist thinking. His research reveals that the way students learn about genetics can increase their tendency toward both. However, Brian’s research has also uncovered an approach to genetics instruction that reduces this tendency. And this summer, Brian and BSCS colleagues Monica Weindling, Dennis Lee, and Awais Syed are working with middle and high school biology teachers across the country to prepare them to implement this approach in their classrooms.
Paul Strode recalls a time when he, like many others, was teaching an oversimplified version of genetics—a version that could contribute to students’ misconceptions about the role genes play in human characteristics and abilities. “With Dr. Donovan’s guidance, I am now teaching more complex models to help my students understand that genes matter, yes, but so does the environment and a lot of other ‘unknown’ factors. Yet there are limits to our knowledge of genetics and it’s important to teach what we don’t know.”
At BSCS, we believe science education is the key to making our world better. So we’re grateful for researchers like Brian, who are willing to ask tough questions. We’re grateful for educators like Paul, who are willing to teach tough topics such as race and genetics. And we’re grateful for supporters like you, who contribute to programs that will help students tackle tough challenges throughout their lives.
Daniel C. Edelson
BSCS Executive Director
Read more about this line of work and how you can get involved.
We want to highlight and create a safe place for Black people who love plants.– Dr. Tanisha Williams, founder of #BlackBotanistWeek
Each Darwin Day, BSCS Science Learning celebrates the impact of Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution on science and society. For the last few years, we have used this occasion to share stories of scientists who are Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) as part of our efforts to educate to advance social justice.
This year, we are excited to highlight scientists who themselves have been working to raise the visibility of BIPOC scientists and expose the biases they face. One such scientist is Tanisha Williams, a plant ecologist and botanist who is studying the effects of climate change on plants, among other research topics. Dr. Williams understands the challenge of “botanizing while black.” After being questioned by strangers when doing her fieldwork in public places, she’s learned to always carry books with her so she looks the way people expect a scientist to look.
To raise awareness for her field and the challenges she and other Black botanists face, Dr. Williams founded the social media campaign, #BlackBotanistsWeek, last summer. The campaign had an immediate impact. Other botanists responded by listening to botanists of color and connecting with them. The Botanical Society of America even added a new BIPOC event to their annual conference in 2020.
Similarly, Chelsea Connor co-founded #BlackBirdersWeek. This event led non-Black allies to step up in support of their BIPOC peers like never before. In astronomy, Ashley Walker founded #BlackinAstro, which inspired students across the country to communicate openly with faculty about the struggles BIPOC scientists face. They and the many other scientists and science educators who are working to reveal and redress racial injustice inspire us.
At BSCS, we are actively pursuing a more-inclusive, meaningful, and effective science education. We remain committed to learning from and amplifying the critical voices of BIPOC scientists and educators.
Of course, we all have much more work to do.
Daniel C. Edelson
BSCS Executive Director