Science Education B.S.


Science seeks to explore and understand the structure and behavior of the natural world through observable physical evidence. The physical sciences, life sciences, and Earth and space sciences each focus on distinct aspects of the natural world. The physical sciences examine and explain matter, motion, energy, and waves. The life sciences examine and explain individual life forms, from molecules to organisms; the interaction of organisms and the physical work within ecosystems; heredity; and biological evolution. The Earth and space sciences help us understand how Earth fits into the universe, the integrated physical and biological systems that influence Earth, and how human activity influences Earth. Although the emphasis and core ideas in these three disciplines are distinct, they all draw on many of the same concepts, such as patterns, scale, cycles and conservation of energy and matter, and many of the same scientific practices, including observation, data analysis and interpretation, and evidence-based argumentation.

Twenty-first century science educators must be able to help their students develop and apply a scientific perspective to a wide range of information. The science education major is designed to prepare future secondary science teachers with a broad background across the sciences—the physical sciences, life sciences, Earth sciences, and space sciences—with advanced specialization in two fields of science (chosen from physics, chemistry, biology, and Earth sciences). The major also integrates education coursework and middle and high school classroom internships designed to develop skills and knowledge relevant to teaching K-12 students in the state of California. Thus the major provides specialized science content preparation, educational theory, and educational practice to produce strong candidates for teacher certification programs.

Cal Teach is one home base for all students in this major, no matter the choices for specialization. Cal Teach provides the required sequence of middle and high school-based internships and associated courses, informally known as CaT1, CaT2, and CaT3, in partnership with schools throughout Santa Cruz County. CaT interns visit an assigned middle or high school science class twice a week (2-3 hours total/week) to observe and support instruction. Each internship placement depends on school schedules and the intern’s schedule, interests, and academic preparation. Over the sequence of three internships, each science education major will be exposed to a variety of student ages (e.g., middle school, early high school, late high school), school characteristics (size, student demographics), courses (e.g., 7th grade science, 9th grade integrated science, college prep biology), and host teachers. The CaT seminar courses provide the framework for science education majors to develop classroom-management strategies, practice communicating scientific concepts for non-specialists (children), and design lessons to teach the science standards currently used in K-12 education. Cal Teach students get to know one another through the small CaT courses that support the internships, and they have use of a student lounge, access to advising for teaching careers, opportunities for professional development, and financial support for expenses specific to prospective science teachers.

Science education majors are also encouraged to gain experience in laboratory and/or field research, and to pursue upper-division coursework emphasizing their own particular areas of scientific interest. Faculty instructors of introductory coursework and Cal Teach staff can provide guidance in selecting upper-division courses and pursuing lab research opportunities. Departmental advising is provided by the Physics Department.

The science education major provides a broad introduction to the major fields of science, specialized coursework in two selected fields, and educational theory and practical work designed for future science teachers. The program is designed to prepare outstanding candidates to enter teaching credential programs after completion. Students earn a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) degree. They do not earn a teaching credential. Most students elect to complete this after graduation. Details of how to prepare for admission to a teaching credential program are available on the department's Careers in K-12 School Teaching page.

There are six combinations of specialization possible: physics/chemistry, physics/ biology, physics/Earth and planetary sciences, chemistry/biology, chemistry/Earth and planetary sciences, and biology/Earth and planetary sciences. All six pathways include a set of core courses in science and mathematics, a sequence of three Cal Teach seminar courses with required school-based internships, and two upper-division education courses. In addition, the student has to take courses in each of the two specializations chosen.