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Atlas of Science Literacy, Volumes 1 and 2

Mapping K–12 science learning


View sample maps from Atlas 2

View sample maps from Atlas 1


Volume 1 ISBN: 0871686686

Volume 2 ISBN-13: 9780871687128

Atlas of Science Literacy is a two-volume collection of conceptual strand maps—and commentary on those maps—that show how students’ understanding of the ideas and skills that lead to literacy in science, mathematics, and technology might develop from kindergarten through 12th grade.

The maps in Atlas are built from the K-12 learning goals presented in Project 2061’s Benchmarks for Science Literacy. Benchmarks was derived from the recommendations for science literacy proposed in Project 2061’s landmark report Science for All Americans.

Cover of Atlas of Science Literacy, Volume I
Cover of Atlas of Science Literacy, Volume 2

Together, Atlas 1 and Atlas 2 map the science learning goals that are recommended in Benchmarks for Science Literacy as essential for every student to learn.

Nearly 100 Science Topics Mapped

The two Atlas volumes include nearly 100 maps that chart all the learning goals specified in Benchmarks for Science Literacy. The chapter organization of each Atlas follows that used in both Science for All Americans and Benchmarks. To help readers find particular benchmarks, Atlas 2 includes a useful index that can be used to locate benchmarks on maps in either volume.

Each map is accompanied by commentary on the facing page. The commentary provides an overview of the map topic, the content of the map and its major strands, and the focus of learning at each of the four grade ranges. The commentary also includes notes pointing out aspects of the map that may be of special interest to readers and summaries of the relevant cognitive research, drawn from Chapter 15: THE RESEARCH BASE in Benchmarks and elsewhere.

Using Atlas of Science Literacy

An Atlas map focuses on a core topic and displays the K-12 science ideas that are most relevant to understanding it, and the connections among those ideas. A Map Key explains the different features of the maps.

Educators working in a wide range of settings have made extensive use of Atlas maps to:

  • Understand the nature of science content standards. By studying the maps, teachers and other educators can get a better sense of the nature of science content standards as specific learning goals for students.
  • Design curriculum. The information in the maps can help educators distribute students’ science learning across grade levels and subjects, thus fostering K-12 coherence.
  • Plan instruction. Maps enable educators to develop instruction that is focused on specific science ideas and to take account of the precursors these specific ideas build on.
  • Develop or evaluate curriculum materials. Maps offer curriculum materials developers a helpful perspective on which science ideas to target and at what level of sophistication.
  • Construct and analyze assessment. Maps help answer questions about when it is appropriate to assess certain ideas and skills, and why students might have difficulty with a particular assessment task.
  • Prepare teachers. Whether in a pre-service or in-service context, using maps can sharpen teachers’ sense of what science content standards mean and how to help students attain them.
  • Organize resources. Maps have proven to be useful frameworks for organizing education resources and linking them to particular ideas that are found in national and state science standards.

The maps in Atlas 1 and Atlas 2 do not prescribe any particular curriculum or instructional strategy. Instead, they present a framework meant to inspire a variety of different ways to design and organize learning experiences suited to local circumstances.


This work was supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. ESI-0103678. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

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