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SEPUP (Science Education for Public Understanding Program) began in 1987 as a not-for-profit project to develop hands-on materials about chemicals and their use for schools and community groups. It was initially called CEPUP (Chemical Education for Public Understanding Program). As the mission of the project expanded to include other scientific disciplines, the name changed to SEPUP.
SEPUP continues to be a not-for-profit project that is primarily supported by grants. However, most of our curriculum is now intended for schools. We have commercially available curricular materials that are used in school districts from Los Angeles to New York. (For information on purchasing these materials, please visit Lab-Aids, the sole producer and distributor of SEPUP materials.)
We continue to work with school districts around the country on our current projects. Please click on the “News” tab above to find out more about current SEPUP projects.
Should you throw your old computer into the trash?
What can you do to reduce the risk of getting food poisoning?
How can releasing your unwanted pet into the wild affect the environment?
These are the types of personal and societal issues that SEPUP uses to engage students in the study of science. Students are provided with some evidence about the issue at hand, but they often realize that they have more questions than answers. These new questions are addressed in a series of science activities that introduce and teach relevant science concepts. Eventually, students apply their new science knowledge to reconsidering the issue.
The goals of issue-oriented science are:
- to engage students in the process of learning science
- to encourage students to use scientific evidence to make decisions
- to help educate tomorrow's citizens about the application of science to everyday life.
SEPUP curriculum does not advocate a particular position on issues, but encourages students to support their views with relevant evidence. SEPUP selects issues that:
- require an understanding of important scientific concepts and processes
- require an application of evidence
- are interesting and accessible to diverse groups of students
- are complex enough to foster discussion and debate
Looking for a specific example? Check out our Curricular Materials.
Barbara Nagle, Director
Barbara has contributed to numerous NSF-funded SEPUP curriculum modules and units as an author and project coordinator. Currently, she serves as the Director of SEPUP. Her published products, developed in collaboration with the SEPUP team, include a high school course titled Science & Sustainability and a complete middle school science series: Issues and Earth Science, Issues and Life Science, and Issues and Physical Science. Barbara is currently Project Director for the NSF-funded Science & Global Issues project, which is developing and publishing a two-year integrated high school science program. She also directs the Hydrogen Technology and Energy Curriculum (HyTEC), a project funded by the Department of Energy that is developing a high school curriculum titled, Investigating Alternative Energy: Hydrogen & Fuel Cells. Barbara has a bachelor’s degree in molecular biology from Wellesley College and a Ph.D. in cell biology from the University of Pennsylvania. She conducted postdoctoral research on cell division and cell motility at UC Berkeley. Her scientific research and publications focused on the regulation of cell division and cellular motility in a variety of systems, including cultured cells and sea urchin embryos. Before joining SEPUP, Barbara taught high school chemistry in Oakland, CA and college level biology courses at the University of Pennsylvania and UC Berkeley.
John Howarth, Associate Director
Joining SEPUP in April 2008, John Howarth is currently the Associate Director. A 1995 recipient of the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science and Mathematics Teaching, John has twenty-five years experience teaching secondary science and eight years as Science Curriculum Supervisor and Executive Director for Curriculum and Instruction for the Grand Rapids Public Schools in Grand Rapids, Michigan. John successfully introduced inquiry-based science programs in grades K-12 in schools in both Michigan and Wyoming. Prior to teaching in the United States, he used an inquiry approach to teach science in secondary schools and colleges in Malaysia, Singapore, and Brunei. He also has a long history of using technology in science education and was recognized as the IBM Teacher of the Year for Wyoming in 1992 and as Technology and Learning magazine’s Teacher of the Year for the Rocky Mountain and Pacific Northwest region in 1995. John received his bachelor’s degree in biochemistry and postgraduate certificate in education, specializing in the teaching of physics and applied science, from the University of Liverpool in the United Kingdom and master’s degree in educational leadership from Western Michigan University.
Janet Bellantoni, Curriculum and Professional Development Specialist
Since joining SEPUP in 2001, Janet has served a variety of curriculum development roles. She served as the Project Coordinator and one of the main developers of Issues and Earth Science, a middle school earth science course. Janet revised the “Energy” unit and developed the “Force and Motion” unit for Issues and Physical Science, a middle school physical science course. Along with other members of the SEPUP team, she is currently creating the physics units for Science & Global Issues, SEPUP’s new high school course. She is also a coauthor for that course’s introductory unit, “Sustainability.” Janet served for seven years as a high school physics teacher and as a Dean of Students in public and private schools in Massachusetts, New York, and California. She has a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Rochester and a master’s degree in science education from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and graduate studies in deaf education at Gallaudet University.
Chris Keller, Curriculum and Web Specialist
In early 2008, Chris had the pleasure of joining SEPUP as a curriculum developer, working on the development and field test of Science & Global Issues and the Investigating Alternative Energy: Hydrogen & Fuel Cells curriculum (formally known as “HyTEC”). Chris holds a bachelor’s degree in physics from UC Berkeley and a master’s degree in physics (with an emphasis in physics education research) from the University of Colorado at Boulder. While at Boulder, Chris worked in the Physics Education Research Group at Colorado (PER@C) studying the effectiveness of physics-based computer simulations (created by the PhET project) in various introductory college environments. In addition to conducting research and being a teaching assistant for 2 years, he served as the Lead Graduate Teacher for the physics department, mentoring new graduate teaching assistants. Chris then went on to work jointly with PER@C and i>clicker (a manufacturer of classroom response devices, commonly known as “clickers”) studying the use of clickers to determine how they can be used more effectively in college lecture environments.
Roberta Smith, Administrative Coordinator
Roberta has been with SEPUP since 1998 and manages business matters for the group. She has helped SEPUP to manage numerous curriculum development and teacher professional development projects. Roberta has a bachelor’s degree in social ecology from John F. Kennedy University.
Maia Willcox, Curriculum and Professional Development Specialist
Maia joined the SEPUP team as a curriculum developer in 2007, focusing primarily on the development, field testing, and production of the Science & Global Issues curriculum. Maia holds a bachelor’s degree in integrative biology from UC Berkeley, a master’s degree in animal sciences from the University of Hawaii at Manoa, and a teaching credential in secondary life science from San Francisco State University with a CLAD certification from Stanford University. Maia began her career in education teaching high school in San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD), where she taught biology, marine science, health education, reading skills for English Language Learners, and integrated science. She also served as the Science Department Chair at Balboa High School before moving on to work as the middle and high school Science Content Specialist for SFUSD. In this position, Maia was responsible for developing and executing professional development workshops for all of the district’s middle and high school science teachers.