Available Tools, Option C:
Project 2061 Principles, Strategy, and Tools

Estimated Time: 20 minutes.

Example of Use: Sample 6-Hour Workshop Agenda.

List of Materials

Sample Presentation
Presenter: The purpose of this activity is to provide a brief history of Project 2061 and an overview of its existing products and future products. We will focus on the systemic, long-term nature of Project 2061 reform.  

Begin by asking participants what they think "2061" in Project 2061 refers to. After hearing several responses, tell the group that it refers to the year 2061. Explain that this is the year in which Comet Halley will return.

PresenterAlthough we can’t predict what the world will be like in 2061, we know that what it is like will be shaped by science, mathematics, and technology. The purpose of Project 2061: Education for a Changing Future is to help shape the education of today’s students for tomorrow’s world.  

Explain that in 1985, as Comet Halley approached the earth, some scientists and educators were very concerned about the frequent failure of science education in this country and the resulting science illiteracy at many levels. They realized that, unless significant change occurs, many children will leave high school in 2061 as illiterate in science as they are today. These concerns prompted the start of Project 2061.

TRANSPARENCY: Reforming The Education System.

Presenter: Let’s look at the main characteristics of Project 2061. It is a long-term, comprehensive effort to reform K-12 science education so that all high school graduates are science literate.

Explain each part of the transparency, covering the follow points:

TRANSPARENCY: Project 2061 Tools for Systemic Reform.

Presenter: It is also hard to overemphasize the scope of the reform envisioned in Project 2061. The effective science education of the future may look nothing like the science education of the present. This transparency shows the plan for purposeful and sustained action that will lead to the reform of education in science, mathematics, and technology.

As a first step toward this reform, the initiators of Project 2061 decided to identify what understandings and habits of mind are essential for all citizens in a science literate society. Suppose you had to determine this. How would you go about it?

Accept several responses and then continue: To determine the understanding and habits of mind essential for all citizens in a science literate society, the American Association for the Advancement of Science engaged five independent scientific panels to define the knowledge and skills needed by science literate adults in the United States. Their reports were synthesized into a single set of recommendations that was reviewed by a large and diverse array of consultants and reviewers—scientists, engineers, mathematicians, historians, and educators. After three years of work, the first Project 2061 tool for reform was published in 1989.

This was Science for All Americans. [Hold up book.] We will talk more about the content of this book later. For now, let’s just note two things.

First, the developers of Science for All Americans identified what all Americans, not just Americans planning careers in science, mathematics, or technology, need to know to be science literate after completing their K-12 education. This includes people in all occupations: our police officers, our hairdressers, our taxi drivers, our English professors, our artists—people in every role in our society.

Second, the essential understandings and habits of mind described in SFAA are different from what is now being taught in our science education programs. SFAA emphasizes major concepts and skills central to science literacy over specialized terms and memorized procedures. For example, SFAA suggests that the science literate adult needs to know that the chief function of cells is to assemble protein molecules per instructions coded in DNA molecules. However, the science literate young adult does NOT need to know the terms "ribosome" or "mitochondria." On the other hand, SFAA suggests that some topics not commonly taught should be included in school curriculum—for example, how science, mathematics, and technology relate to each other and to our social system, significant episodes in the history of science and technology, and the major conceptual themes that run through almost all scientific thinking.

After the recommended knowledge and skills of a science literate high school graduate had been identified in SFAA, the next questions arose: "What should students learn at earlier levels to attain the desired knowledge and skills by the time of high school graduation? What can they learn at each earlier level, assuming motivation and appropriate instruction?" Benchmarks for Science Literacy was written in response to these questions. Benchmarks translates the literacy goals of SFAA into expectations for students by the end of grades 2, 5, 8, and 12.

Benchmarks was based on the work of teams of educators from around the country collaborating with Project 2061, as well as on the latest education research. Draft benchmarks were reviewed by thousands of individuals and groups before publication in 1993.

One important process in creating Benchmarks was mapping. Mappers began this process by taking each science literacy goal recommended in SFAA and considering what knowledge and skills at earlier grade levels could build toward this goal. For example, one goal is for students to understand the structure of matter. What must students learn first in order to understand basic ideas about atoms, molecules, and their structure and how their arrangements and activities underlie all phenomena?

Refer participants to p. 306 in Benchmarks or show TRANSPARENCY: Draft Map: The Structure of Matter

Presenter: Here you see how requisite knowledge was mapped to clarify what the precursors should be. Published research and craft knowledge contributed to the grade-level placement of precursors. In its final form, Benchmarks shows early understandings that contribute to later understanding and indicates when the earlier understandings should be learned. Benchmarks describes K-12 developmental progressions of understanding.

Benchmarks also highlights the importance of connections among disciplines. For example, to understand the scientific explanation for the evolution of life, a student needs to have some knowledge of the physical sciences, mathematics, and the nature of scientific inquiry.

Project 2061 is developing still other tools to help reformers in their work. Initially tools should help reformers get started with whatever resources—materials, money, people—they have. The tools can also provide a vision to prepare for further changes when resources permit. The tools are designed to be both practical and thought-provoking.

Project 2061 Resources for Science Literacy on CD-ROM is designed to guide the professional development of teachers and to assist in the selection and adaptation of existing curriculum materials. Two other tools are under development: Designs for Science Literacy will guide school districts and materials developers as they create and assemble new curricula, and Blueprints for Reform will consider needed changes in the education system for new curricula to be developed and successfully implemented. Project 2061 is moving toward electronic dissemination and use of these tools.

Respond to any questions.

Presenter: So you can see that Project 2061 is a long-term, comprehensive effort to reform K-12 science education.  

HANDOUT: Benchmarks for Science Literacy.
HANDOUT: Benchmarks for Science Literacy on Disk.
HANDOUT: Blueprints for Reform.
HANDOUT: Resources for Science Literacy.
HANDOUT: Science Literacy for a Changing Future.