Science Education and Outreach

AAAS worked to ensure that talent and interest in scientific endeavors are always nurtured,
and to improve science education for all students.


Through its long-term science-education initiative, Project 2061, AAAS endeavors to improve science, mathematics, and technology literacy for everyone. Project 2061 carries out research and development of tools and curricula to help improve the quality of K–12 science curricula, instruction, and assessments. It collaborates with organizations devoted to science education to promote an approach to learning that helps students understand essential science ideas as they engage in the kinds of activities scientists use every day to answer questions about the world.

Global Influence of Science Literacy Efforts

In 2015, Project 2061’s leaders participated in international conferences about promoting science literacy and science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) innovations, and shared results from some of the Project’s work. George DeBoer, Project 2061’s deputy director, was a keynote speaker at the 2015 Shanghai International Forum on Science Literacy for Adolescents in September. He described the evolution of science standards for education in the United States, and the challenges of taking a more integrated approach to teaching STEM.

Director Jo Ellen Roseman spoke in July at the U.S.-Korea Conference on Science, Technology, and Entrepreneurship about the project’s efforts to promote science literacy for all, and the role of scientific organizations such as AAAS in reforming education. Inspired by Project 2061’s publication, Science for All Americans, which defined what a science-literate adult should know and be able to do, the Korea Foundation for the Advancement of Science and Creativity (KOFAC) is working to create a similar document for Koreans.

CASE workshop

Jo Ellen Roseman, director of Project 2061, joined STEM educators and innovators at the U.S.-Korea Conference on Science, Technology, and Entrepreneurship, where she offered a presentation on AAAS efforts to promote science literacy.

Bringing Energy Concepts to Teens

Project 2061 received a grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences to develop a six-week curriculum unit for high-school biology students. The new unit will help develop students’ understanding of energy transfer and conservation in both living and non-living systems so that they can explain fundamental processes in living organisms, a major topic in most high-school biology courses.

“Energy concepts are quite abstract and can be very difficult for students, especially in a life-science context,” said Jo Ellen Roseman, Project 2061’s director. “Many middle-school students and college undergraduates share some of the same misunderstandings about energy, so it’s clear that a whole new approach is needed.”

To help make ideas about energy more concrete, the new unit will use a variety of analogies, beginning with phenomena drawn from more familiar physical systems such as combustion and charging a cellphone battery. Building on these experiences, the unit will then help students understand that the same energy-releasing and energy-requiring chemical reactions also occur in living organisms—they are just more complex and difficult to observe. Examples of biological energy transfers include cellular respiration, and creating a charge across a membrane in mitochondria and nerve cells.

The unit will also have students work with a range of models, such as interactive simulations and virtual labs, designed to help them think about and explore energy phenomena and make sense of their observations.

Over the course of the three-year curriculum project, the research team will design a professional-development program and materials for teachers, plus a set of assessments for evaluating students’ understanding of the concepts presented in the new unit.

Workshops for Educators

Science teachers, curriculum and assessment specialists, and education researchers continued to turn to Project 2061 for help in improving their students’ learning. Nearly 70 educators attended Project 2061 workshops in 2015 to learn more about developing and using high-quality science curricula and assessments, including those that are designed to support Next Generation Science Standards. Attendees also included middle-school teachers who were getting ready to use the project’s new Toward High School Biology curriculum unit.

In addition to introducing the Project’s research and development efforts, the workshops gave participants a chance to try out its tools and resources for themselves. They engaged in activities from the new curriculum unit, for example, and used diagnostic test items from the Project’s science-assessment website.

New Weather@School Website Launched

A new website developed by Project 2061, WeatherSchool@AAAS (, uses real-world data collected from around the globe to teach fundamental concepts of weather and climate. In a series of interactive modules that include graphing tools, data sets, guided activities, and quizzes, middle- and high-school students can learn how moving air masses cause day-to-day temperature variations, how geographic factors such as elevation above sea level influence temperature, and how the movement of the Earth in relation to the sun affects temperatures over the course of a year.

The new site is consistent with recommendations in the Next Generation Science Standards, and it encourages teachers to integrate the core ideas that students are learning with the practices of science, such as generating data, creating graphs and tables, and looking for relationships and patterns.

Searching for Standards-Aligned Curricula

While 12 states and the District of Columbia have adopted new Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) for K-12 classrooms, educators are struggling to find teaching materials and curricula that fit with the standards’ goals. In response, Project 2061 in April led a symposium at the annual meeting of the National Association for Research in Science Teaching. Three case studies were presented, in which curriculum materials were analyzed using the Educators Evaluating the Quality of Instructional Products (EQuIP) Rubric developed by Achieve, an organization that helped to create the NGSS.

“Everyone is desperately looking for examples of what [NGSS] looks like in curriculum materials and teaching,” said Jo Ellen Roseman, director of Project 2061. Educators are also going to need tools and measures they can use to evaluate textbook publishers’ claims that their materials are “NGSS-aligned,” she said. The NGSS standards emphasize three main dimensions of science learning: science practices for investigating the world, crosscutting concepts common to all scientific topics, and core ideas within scientific disciplines.

Roseman and her colleagues reported that the EQuIP tool helped them to identify strengths and weaknesses of curricula in several key ways, and engaging in the EQuIP analysis deepened their understanding of the NGSS and its vision for science teaching and learning.


Improving education and opportunities for students and professionals in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) is a primary goal of AAAS. This not only benefits individuals, but society, which needs science-literate citizens and a well-trained STEM workforce. The Education and Human Resources Programs team at AAAS oversees internships, awards, training programs, and conferences that reach out to women and underrepresented groups to ensure that society will have access to a full spectrum of STEM talent.

Emerging Researchers

More than 1,000 students, researchers, professors, and administrators from 240 colleges and universities attended the 2015 Emerging Researchers National (ERN) Conference in STEM, hosted by AAAS and the National Science Foundation (NSF). The ERN conference, held annually in Washington, D.C., provides an opportunity for undergraduate and graduate students in STEM fields to enhance their science-communication skills through poster and oral presentations, and to benefit from career-information sessions on topics such as applying to graduate schools, funding higher education, and STEM career trends.


Many of the students attending the ERN conference participate in programs funded by the NSF’s Division of Human Resources Development, which provides opportunities for underrepresented minorities, women, and persons with disabilities to pursue research and education in STEM fields.

The conference tries to provide a supportive, encouraging space for students who face additional barriers to entering science to present their research, often for the first time, said Shirley Malcom, director of AAAS Education and Human Resources Programs. “This is a wonderful entrée into being able to see yourself as part of the scientific community,” she told attendees.

AAAS-Lemelson Invention Ambassadors

Seven men and women from academia and industry joined the second class of AAAS-Lemelson Invention Ambassadors in July. Formed by a partnership between AAAS and The Lemelson Foundation, the program is designed to cultivate a new and diverse generation of inventors, and to increase understanding of the role of invention in creating new products and establishing new businesses.

The Ambassdors, who together hold more than 220 patents, were selected for their high regard for the role of invention, their success with invention, their accomplished professional careers, a commitment to invention’s role in impacting environmental sustainability, and their interest in speaking to different audiences. “All of us have an inventor inside of us,” said Ambassador Lisa Seacat DeLuca, the most prolific woman inventor in IBM history.

EntryPoint! Widens the S&T Pipeline

Twenty-seven undergraduate students with disabilities got a chance to try out working in STEM positions, through internships facilitated by the AAAS EntryPoint! Program. Launched in 1996, the program has recruited students to work in industry, universities, and government agencies, including at NASA, Georgia Tech, and Johns Hopkins University.

Of the 580 alumni of the program, more than 80% are now working in STEM fields, and alumni sometimes mentor new students, said Laureen Summers, the program’s coordinator. It is the only such program for disabled college students that focuses on STEM jobs, she said.

CASE workshop

In a 2015 ceremony, Shirley Malcom, director of AAAS Education and Human Resources Programs and a UCLA alumna, received the UCLA Medal for her commitment to increasing diversity in academia. The medal is the school’s highest honor, given for distinguished achievement that embodies UCLA’s ideals. Malcom also gave a talk at a live-streamed TEDxMidAtlantic conference in September, where she called for the removal of obstacles that keep people of diverse backgrounds from participating in science. [TODD CHENEY/UCLA ]

Changing the Face of Science

While the number of women entering STEM careers, including faculty positions in academia, has been growing, women, along with minorities and persons with disabilities, are still underrepresented in these fields. AAAS sponsors several awards to help women succeed in science.

Four women were awarded the first AAAS Marion Milligan Mason Awards for Women in the Chemical Sciences in October. The award is named for a long-time AAAS member and chemist who left a $2.2 million bequest to provide funding for early-career women researchers. The $50,000 awards, which help winners do research and attract and mentor graduate students, will continue to be awarded to three women every two years for the next 20 years.

At an awards ceremony at AAAS, four winners spoke with appreciation for the mentors who helped to steer them on their course. “As I evaluate all the mentorship that I had during my chemistry career, I would like to pass that along to my students,” said Luisa Whittaker-Brooks, an assistant professor of chemistry at the University of Utah. She became interested in science as a high-school student in Panama, thanks in large part to an enthusiastic teacher who told her that she had a bright future in chemistry.

AAAS also administers the L’Oréal USA for Women in Science Fellowship, which awarded five women with $60,000 research grants in October. The recipients were an exoplanet astrophysicist, a marine microbiologist, a synthetic biologist, a cancer bioengineer, and a condensed matter physicist.

The Elsevier Foundation Awards for Women in Science in the Developing World, with its partners, the Organization for Women in Science for the Developing World and the World Academy of Sciences, also recognize early-career women scientists. Each year, five women are awarded $5,000 and a trip to the AAAS Annual Meeting. The 2015 winners from Nigeria, Sudan, and Vietnam were selected for their contributions to nanoparticle physics, atmospheric physics, medical physics, and computational mathematics, and their efforts to encourage other women to pursue STEM careers. Gilbert S. Omenn, a past AAAS president, and Martha Darling helped to support the awards.

Mass Media Fellows March On

Most of the 2015 AAAS Mass Media Science and Engineering Fellows began their 10-week internships at Scientific American, Slate, WIRED, the Los Angeles Times, NPR, and other outlets having little or no journalism experience—just a knowledge of science and a desire to share it while improving their communication skills. Afterward, about two-thirds said that they would like to continue to work in journalism, and many of those who will return to science say they want to continue to use the skills they honed to communicate about science with the public.

“This program helps in both ways. Not only do we have some of the best science journalists anywhere who have come out of this program and now give back to this program, but we also have dynamic scientists who have come out of this program, and they are also excellent communicators,” said Shirley Malcom, director of Education and Human Resources Programs at AAAS. The highly competitive fellowship is open to upper-level undergraduate students, graduate students, or post-doctoral scholars in STEM fields.