Choose a role that will make the most of your talent and time
Take a look at some of the most effective programs in the US
involving scientists and engineers in K-12 science education.
Broaden your understanding through selected articles and other
recommended resources.
Tell us what you think.
Contact Information for the RISE program
Working Directly with Students
Working with Teachers
Supporting Systemic Reform
Helping Develop Instructional Materials
Roles: Helping to Develop Instructional Materials

Is this role for you?

Even a lone volunteer scientist can effectively participate in developing instructional materials if:

  • your task is to review a product for content and contextual authenticity and accuracy or for relevant scientific or design processes
  • you are part of a development team that includes professional curriculum developers, classroom teachers, and publications professionals
  • you are being asked to suggest extension activities for existing, successful materials, and teachers are working with you to incorporate their goals and the cognitive levels of their students.

In any of the above activities, do not forget to consult the National Science Education Content Standards or the Benchmarks for Science Literacy for guidance on appropriate topics for K-12 students.

Advice from the field

Unlike the other roles for scientists discussed in this site, a role in developing instructional materials for K-12 science education is suitable only for a few individuals. Many of those involved in improving science education advise scientists who are interested in developing materials, "DON'T DO IT!!"

The working conference participants who discussed this role agreed that, "The proliferation of "home grown" scientist-teacher content modules may be deleterious to our overall goals of teaching and disseminating good science. Opinions on this subject are often strongly colored by our values, personal goals, and limited experiences."

Nevertheless, several scientists and engineers who did not start out as professional curriculum developers have made outstanding contributions in this area. Examples of these contributions are profiled below. The facilitation and fund-raising support of professional societies has also helped produce some high-quality instructional materials.


  1. "Simple Advice for Curriculum Developers" is an excerpt from the chapter entitled "Development of New Curriculum" in National Standards and the Science Curriculum: Challenges, Opportunities, and Recommendations, developed as a joint initiative of the National Research Council and the Biological Sciences Curriculum Study. Eight important points to ponder are given for would-be curriculum developers, and the role of the National Science Education Standards is stressed.
  2. For examples of projects in which scientists and engineers played key roles in producing instructional materials, see Project RE-SEED, Project ASTRO, and American Chemical Society programs profiled on this Website.
  3. Other good examples of instructional materials development projects in which scientists have played key roles in collaboration with teachers include:
    1. Bottle Biology and Wisconsin Fast Plants. Dr. Paul Williams is a plant pathologist, and his interest in new food crops for developing nations has informed his instructional materials development in collaboration with K-12 teachers. Dr. Williams and his colleagues at the University of Wisconsin - Madison have developed these Instructional materials, using a fast-growing brassica, as well as professional development projects. Some of the instructional materials are available for browsing using Adobe Acrobat. The rapid cycling of the brassica plants (about 35 days from seed to seedpod) make them ideal for use in the classroom for studying basic plant growth and development as well as plant genetics. Innumerable creative experiments are possible with the many variables applicable to plant development. The journal article on rapid-cycling brassicas, from Science, Vol. 232 (1986), pp. 1385-89 , is also available.
    2. In the Exploratorium Snackbook series, scientists at the Exploratorium science museum in San Francisco and local K-12 teachers have developed directions for building and using small-scale models of the museum's exhibits in classrooms.
    3. C. The Jason Project was organized by Dr. Robert Ballard to provide high-tech field trips and science experiences for students and teachers. Each year, Dr. Ballard and selected classes join in real-time expeditions and produce classroom materials.
    4. AGI Earth Science in the Community-- Understanding our Environment (EarthComm) are high-school instructional materials under development by the American Geological Institute. The brief overview on the AGI website contains updates on the project.
    5. Investigating Plants in Space (a pdf file) and Exploring the Moon are two good examples of instructional materials supported by NASA's numerous education programs. These and other curriculum resources are maintained in the online library called NASA Spacelink.

  4. Fourteen Challenger Centers have been established by a foundation funded in memory of the crew of the Challenger space shuttle. Classes can make a simulated space exploration from one of the centers. Long-term classroom activities in space science are also made available through the Challenger Centers.

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