Department of Science Education

Over the past three years, Leslie Atkins and Irene Salter have partnered with faculty at Western Washington University to develop Life Science and Everyday Thinking—an undergraduate biology course expressly designed for future elementary teachers. We are now working with a publisher and expect this work to be commercially available in the fall.

Leslie Atkins and the Department of Science Education have recently been awarded an Undergraduate Science for Future Elementary Teachers grant from the Bechtel Foundation to coordinate the content of courses for liberal studies students so that students experience science as a coherent framework for understanding the natural world rather than a set of disjointed courses in different science disciplines.

Currently, our courses represent the best that each discipline has to offer to future elementary teachers—they are informed by current research on how people learn science, model best practices in teaching science, address the major science concepts taught in California schools, and align with the newly released Next Generation Science Standards. These visionary new standards emphasize the coherence of science through crosscutting concepts such as energy, patterns, and scale that permeate all of the science disciplines. The primary goal for this grant is to revise our courses so that the crosscutting concept of energy is presented so that its role as an organizing framework underlying all the disciplines is clear. In this way, the courses offered by the Department of Science Education will be interwoven into a coherent curriculum that can serve as a model for the preparation of future elementary teachers in science across the CSU and, indeed, across the country. 

Over the next year, our faculty will revise our existing labs so that core ideas in each discipline are explicitly linked to the crosscutting concept of energy. When teaching the revised labs, all the faculty teaching future teachers will participate in a lesson study where we observe each other teaching and then meet later to discuss our observations, student work, and concerns. The final revisions will be disseminated across the CSU.

Several outstanding students in the Department of Science Education were awarded prestigious awards and scholarships this year. Kelly Blum was the first representative from the Department of Science Education to be honored with a Floyd English Scholarship. In addition, Jennifer Bretney and Estefan Olivares were accepted as scholars in the Robert Noyce Scholars program, funded by the NSF. Congratulations to these outstanding students.

Accomplishments:

  • Over $3.8 million in grants.
  • Newly redesigned our entire curriculum to better meet the needs of future K–9 teachers.
  • Highlighted as one of only three promising programs in California for preparing elementary teachers to teach science.
  • The innovative Hands-On Lab serves as a model across the CSU for providing early practicum experiences for future teachers.
  • NSCI 321-Scientific Inquiry was a finalist in a national competition honoring groundbreaking innovations in STEM education.
    • A BA in natural sciences was established in 2011 to provide science training for students with broad science interests that cut across departments. We already have 38 majors and seven graduates!