Classroom Innovation Planned in Chemistry, Biochemistry

Learning about chemical reactions is essential for advanced chemistry studies and, increasingly, to understand the chemistry of life itself. But test scores and other evidence show that many U.S. middle and high school students struggle to understand even basic chemical reactions such as oxidation or photosynthesis.

Now, with a $2.4 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education, AAAS’s Project 2061 and the Biological Sciences Curriculum Study (BSCS) are embarking on a project to develop chemistry and biochemistry materials for middle school students and teachers, based on the latest research in learning.

Jo Ellen Roseman, director of the long-term science literacy project, said improved ways of teaching how atoms and molecules behave in chemical reactions will prepare students for more advanced classes in high school and college. At the same time, she said, it will give them a foundation for understanding climate change, alternative energy sources, the uses of nanotechnology, and other science topics that are already the focus of policy debate.

Each unit “will organize the scientific ideas into a coherent story for teachers and students,” said Roseman. “The scientific ideas will be more likely to be... tied together and linked to carefully chosen phenomena and representations.”

The materials will be designed and tested over the next three years at schools in Colorado, Maryland, Massachusetts, and Washington, D.C., in classrooms involving 18 teachers and nearly 2000 students.

The grant was issued by the National Center for Education Research in the Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences.