Science Education for Public Understanding Program (SEPUP)

Program Type

Curriculum/Instructional Materials
Teacher Development/Training
Hands on/Project-Based

Target Audience

All Students




Grades 6 - 8
Grades 9 - 12

 Accomplished link

Program Impact

The results of 20 years of research and evaluation of SEPUP programs indicate that they are engaging and promote learning by diverse students. Positive effects of student learning and engagement have been documented in the following areas:

  • Content knowledge
  • Problem solving
  • Decision making
  • Investigation skills
  • Interest in science and perception of the relevance of science to students’ lives

Research also indicates that SEPUP materials are effective tools for professional development.


Program Overview

The Science Education for Public Understanding Program (SEPUP) is a science curriculum project to develop comprehensive and supplemental science curriculum materials and resources targeted at diverse student populations in grades 5–12.

Developed by the University of California, Berkeley’s Lawrence Hall of Science, SEPUP’s primary goals are to:

• Increase all students’ engagement, motivation and learning in science
• Provide teachers with the support they need to foster a learning environment that will help them achieve these goals

Issue-oriented science describes the approach of all SEPUP’s curriculum materials. Every SEPUP unit uses personal and societal issues to provide thematic continuity for student investigations. Issue-oriented science engages students in such questions as:
• Should you throw your old computer in 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?

SEPUP curriculum products focus on both core science content and the practices of science and engineering through a variety of learning activities. Issues span the disciplines as earth, life and physical sciences and interdisciplinary content relevant to global issues and sustainability. Issues provide continuity and thematic connections among activities in each SEPUP unit and course. SEPUP’s comprehensive courses include support materials for the development of scientific and language literacy. SEPUP materials are published and distributed by LAB-AIDS, Inc.

A nationally recognized assessment system, developed in collaboration with the University of California, Berkeley’s Graduate School of Education, is included in all SEPUP programs.


Dr. Barbara Nagle

Design Principles

The programs in this database clear a high bar. STEMworks reviewed each program against the Design Principles for Effective STEM Philanthropy.

  • Accomplished
  • Developing
  • Undeveloped

Overarching Principles

  • Need

    Identify and target a compelling and well-defined need.

  • Evaluation

    Use rigorous evaluation to continuously measure and inform progress towards the compelling need identified.

  • Sustainability

    Ensure work is sustainable.

  • Replication and Scalability

    Demonstrate replicability and scalability.

  • Partnerships

    Create high impact partnerships

  • Capacity

    Ensure organizational capacity to achieve goals.

STEM Principles

  • Challenging and Relevant Content

    Offer challenging and relevant STEM content for the target audience

  • STEM Practices

    Incorporate and encourage STEM practices.

  • Inspiration

    Inspire interest and engagement in STEM.

  • Under-Represented Groups

    Identify and address the needs of under-represented groups.