Could a new curriculum in nanotechnology improve science education?

I was at a nanotechnology meeting and this question was thrown around. Since American kids, in general, don't like high school chemistry and don't even take physics, could we offer them an alternative science course that was developed by scientists. Would this be better than current science classes and who might take a course in nanotechnology?

Most of the scientists and educators at this NSF sponsored meeting agreed that our high school chemistry curriculum is in a sad state. There is no time for labs and the labs that we have are high stress cookbook affairs. There is little insight into the process of scientific discovery. There are many teachers who don't have the proper background in chemistry (i.e. not chemistry or chemical engineering). We don't have national standards for these well defined courses. and the list goes on.

So what if we developed a really good science class that integrated chemistry and physics and was driven by discovery learning, well trained teachers, and exciting applications. What if we called it nanotechnology? What if we started with what is relevant to kids (their bodies, their gadgets, their environment) rather than significant figures, balancing equations, dropping bowling balls from airplanes? Could this work?

With the high emphasis on 5 point, advanced placement courses in high school, who would take this new class? Maybe it wouldnt attract that population of students, but perhaps it would engage a whole new demographic of students who think that science is just something that old white men do in isolated labs in boring places.

Maybe it could work - the next question is how would could it be implemented.

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Tags: curriculum, education, k-12, nanoeducation


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Comment by Dr BALIRAM on July 9, 2009 at 10:00am
Of course a new curriculum in nanotechnology improve science education at least think on the same.

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Comment by Sanjukta Ganguli on February 9, 2009 at 9:32am
I can suggest that since school children like natural science more than physical science, Nanoscience should indeed be introduced through this to them. After all Feynman`s thought was based on knowledge of bioscience and students can even find that chemistry, physics and biology and some other disciplines are interlinked. This may attract them.

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Comment by tal dror on January 31, 2009 at 11:06pm
As a developer of extra-curricular science activities, mainly for kindergarten up to 3rd grade, but also for 18-21-year olds, I can safely say that the answer is a big resounding yes...
However, since the standard approach will only attract those attracted to science anyway (i.e., straight-A's-geeks etc.), your wise 5th point could be tackled by building a curriculum based mainly on the pinnacle of nano-related scientific acheivements, both from the academic realm and from the hi-tech nano-based/related industries / applications around the world.

So much has been accomplished until now in the area of nano-tech, a large portion of which borders or seemingly borders sci-fi that a curriculum based on these accomplishments and researches will arouse interest and curiousity and an urge to know and learn more, in a much larger segment of the student population in any school, at any age by the way, where such a curriculum will be implemented.

Tal M. Dror
The PicoNanoKids Project

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Comment by RAYMOND SPARROW on January 27, 2009 at 2:23pm
Yes I agree that it would and also agree with Prof. Rao that the name nanoscience might be approprate.

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Comment by Sarah Keenihan on January 25, 2009 at 11:36pm
Hello Dr Nichol,

Your post is very interesting to my colleagues and I at Bridge8 Pty Ltd in Australia. We have been involved in creating AccessNano (, an accessible, versatile, web-based high school nanotechnology resource in Australia. The product was funded by the Australian Federal Government, with the goal of providing teachers with a simple and ready-to-use resource to invigorate their teaching of science and introduce kids to nanotechnology in an inquiry-based manner. AccessNano fits into current curriculum requirements across Australian states, and can therefore be taught within exisiting science classes.

AccessNano was a natural progression from the award-winning Australian nanotechnology teaching resource SHINE, which was created by science teachers at St Helena Secondary College in Melbourne, Australia.

AccessNano ( was launched in November 2008 - please do have a read of our website, and explore the teaching modules, with accompanying user guides, experiments, activities and animations. It may provide you with some food for thought.

With best wishes,
Sarah Keenihan, PhD

Science and Industry Analyst
Bridge8 Pty Ltd

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Comment by Judith Light Feather on January 25, 2009 at 5:14pm
Dear Carolyn,

Your thoughts are accurate, but the complexity of the US educational system has kept us in the industrial age with teachers using textbooks that only teach to the test. Many universities have been funded to create nano science curriculum and a few textbooks have been published also.
However, they are not being used in the classrooms for many complex reasons. Our organization has posted the free resources from all the funded outreach programs in the US and globally. All teachers and school districts are welcome to use these materials in their classrooms. All science needs to updated to include the nano scale which is a size that allows us to move and manipulate atoms. Our 8th grade textbooks still tell the students that we do not know what an atom looks like. Until these basics are corrected, our students will be left behind with knowledge that is outdated.

Please review our website and let us know if you have any more ideas that could be helpful in this ongoing project.
Judith Light Feather, President
The NanoTechnology Group Inc.

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Comment by Bibhuti Bhusan Mohanty on January 25, 2009 at 2:06am
Yes, it would

Professor B. B. Mohanty

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Comment by K.V.Rao on January 24, 2009 at 1:09pm
I call it nanoscience and not nanotechnology. It is an enabling science and not a technology by itself. So for example I give a course on Physics and chemistry of solids, in which I take a versatile material like Magnetite and ask them to synthesize it by three different chemical and physical technique, then they characterize the particles at a nanoscale for their structure (XRD), morphology (SEM), and physical property like magnetic hysteretic loops. Then they have to choose an application like targetted drug delivery wherein they functionalize the particles for biocompatibility etc... Then in the end the students individually or as a batch consisting of teams of four will give a presentations and write a comprehensive report. Students feel they are researchers, and develop team spirit and each batch is sufficiently different that they can consider the pros and cons of each technique and approach.

Hope you try this approach and give me a feed back.

Prof. K.V.Rao (Royal Inst. of technology, Stockholm, Sweden

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