BSCS: An Essential Element of American Science

On October 4, 1957, the Soviet Union successfully launched the first satellite into space, named “Sputnik.” The 22.8 inch diameter steel sphere weighed 183.9 pounds and was engineered to be seen by the naked eye up to 175 miles in the sky. Its 21 day radio emitted signal reminded Americans of the failed attempts to match the Soviet Union’s rockets. The success of “Sputnik” surpassed the American’s Project Vanguard proposal of a 3.5 pound payload rocket. The launch marked the start of the Space Age. The loss made critics question American science. An editor of Biological Science Curriculum Study (BSCS) writes, “Critics began accusing the United States of falling behind the Soviets in science and technology education.” In 1958, Congress passed the National Defense Education Act to generate funding to reinforce science and math in American curriculum. BSCS was developed later the same year with a $143,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to the Education Committee of the American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS). The major focus of the organization was to strengthen education in biology; yet, better educating students to understand science became the leading goal.

Operating more than 55 year later, BSCS is continuously following its mission statement which states, “Our mission is to transform science teaching and learning through research and development that strengthens learning environments and inspires a global community of scientifically literate citizens.” BSCS holds seven values by which studies are guided: scientific integrity, scientific inquiry, rigorous research, all students have the right to learn science, curriculum materials have a central role, teachers are the instructional leaders, and professional development. Scientific integrity and accuracy are core concepts of any research based instruction and curriculum. BSCS strives to implement  factually correct content that is consistent and accepted with current scientific theories, ideas and hypotheses along with not omitting ideas due to lack of popularity such as the theory of evolution. Scientific inquiry and practice develops students to research and interpret data along with understanding changes in concepts as knowledge grows. BSCS believes all students have equal rights to a higher quality of education and access to proficient learning instructors, materials, and equipment. BSCS ensures materials are up to date and are the center of learning and the future. The cultivation of better teachers continues through improving professional knowledge. BSCS strengthens the idea that teachers are instructional leaders of implementing curriculum. Increasing teachers’ knowledge and monitoring results are the central concepts for professional development.

Through the seven values, BSCS offers services to local and international communities and education organizations–Professional Development, External Evaluation, and Curriculum Development. Through Professional Development, BSCS offers three strands of programs to education organizations and instructors to strengthen teaching and student learning in schools and districts. Thus, BSCS is one of the most beneficial organizations in Colorado Springs for providing a service for higher education in scientific literacy in citizens.

The flourishing American economy and culture of the 1950s created an illusion to Americans that the United States was the dominant world power. Funding for science programs to the military were limited or ceased.  The launch of the Soviet Union’s satellite heightened the space race with the United States. After the launch, Congress immediately approved funding for similar projects and developed organizations to better science curriculum and teachings. BSCS has been a leading organization in strengthening science literacy in the public. Former Executive Director Roger W. ByBee, writes, “The BSCS program has been adapted in 25 different languages for the use of more than 60 countries. Since its beginning, an estimated 20 million students have used BSCS curricula. This does not include BSCS curriculum for elementary, high schools or colleges.” Since the development of BSCS, new standards of teaching and instructing have been created to enhance student learning. BSCS developed the Next Generation Science Standard (NGSS), which supports educators to interpret and implement new science programs that are state led. In a BSCS study, “After two years of study, students using the BSCS science program were about 4 months of learning ahead of students in business-as-usual classrooms.” The standards developed and implemented through BSCS increase advancement in education in science with better curriculum. BSCS works with multiple organizations to help improve science education.

The advancements in American science are not only from contributions by BSCS.  BSCS is currently partnered with twenty different organizations and businesses within science and health; American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), American Chemical Society, American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS), the Association for Science Teacher Education (ASTE), Botanical Society of America, and Children’s Hospital of Colorado are a few organizations nationwide. BSCS also works with several Universities such as: Center for Science Teaching and Learning – Northern Arizona University (NAU), Colorado College (CC), Colorado State University (CSU), Montana State University (MSU), South Carolina Coalition (Clemson University), and University of Nebraska Medical Center. Nine different schools and school districts collaborate with BSCS as well. Three schools and school districts are within Colorado and the six others located around the nation. In 2010, BSCS was awarded a contract from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease (NIDDK) to work with Canyon Ranch Institute and other organizations to develop Diabetes Education Curriculum K-12 (DECK-12) Program. Efforts between BSCS and partners continue to improve science curriculum and increase science education for future generations.

The need for science improvements in the late 1950s steered the direction the United States government supported science research. Programs and organizations were developed and gained funding and support. BSCS receives funding from several government organizations such as National Science Foundation (NSF), National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), National Institute of Health (NIH), and Department of Education (DOE), as well as, grants from private investors and contractors. BSCS was audited in 2012 and 2013 by Waugh & Goodwin, LL; Accounting firm. Waugh & Goodwin, LLC found BSCS’s financial statements fair and followed accordingly with compliance with Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) of the United States.

The first successful satellite launched into space by the Soviet Union exposed the necessity to improve American science. BSCS was developed to improve American science curriculum and implementation. Instructors and leaders are able to collaborate, study and implement science practices to better educate citizens and communities. BSCS has greatly increased American science by working with organizations communities to provide accurate science. BSCS is a beneficial non-profit organization that has greatly benefited American science literacy in citizens and should have continuous support.

Photo By: Eric Stephenson