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The University of Colorado Boulder will be leading a $7 million project intending to increase access to innovative science curriculum for high school students across the country.

The project is part of the OpenSciEd initiative of the National Center for Civic Innovation, working to improve science materials in K-12 education.

Over the next three years, the project team led by CU Boulder’s William Penuel will develop three full-year courses in high school biology, chemistry and physics.

The free curriculum will include topics ranging from Earth and space sciences, ocean acidification and antibiotic-resistant bacteria in hospitals, aligning with national education standards.

“This is a moment when we are increasingly aware of the need to prepare our citizenry for using and applying science in novel ways to solve vexing societal problems, such as pandemics and climate change,” Jim Ryan, executive director of OpenSciEd, told CU Boulder.

The project team hopes the curriculum will help ensure a high-quality science education for underrepresented students.

The team includes curriculum designers, researchers and teachers from CU Boulder, Northwestern University, the Dana Center at the University of Texas at Austin, BSCS Science Learning and Denver Public Schools.

Penuel said the project reflects a shift in the way that science should be taught, focusing on encouraging students to think like real scientists.

“We’re really trying to help students understand that science is not just a body of knowledge but practices for developing, critiquing and defending that knowledge,” Penuel told CU Boulder.

“That goes way beyond just conducting investigations following steps that somebody else has already laid out.”

The project is being funded by the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Gates Foundation, the Schusterman Foundation and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.

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