Science Educator Profile | Mark Bloom

Meet the BSCS science educators! Learn why our science educators chose the field of science in general for their careers, and science education in particular. What are they working on right now? Why is this work important, and what will we all gain from it?

Featured work: National Institutes of Health curriculum supplements

How long have you been with BSCS, and what is your area of emphasis?

I’ve been with BSCS since April, 1999. My scientific training is in molecular biology. At BSCS I mostly work as a curriculum developer. I sometimes participate in professional development efforts.

How/when did you become interested in the field of science education?

While in graduate school I was required to teach undergrads and found that I liked it. In 1987, I decided to leave research and work as a science educator. I accepted a position at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory on Long Island, New York, and became the assistant director of the DNA Learning Center. At the time, I was not familiar with the literature in science education. As I began to read and speak with teachers, I discovered that the pedagogical approach that instinctively appealed to me was well known and called constructivism.

In 1998, I decided that I was ready for a change. Since I didn’t have my next job lined up I accepted an offer to co-write the book The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Decoding Your Genes. While working on this book, I accepted a job at BSCS and moved to Colorado Springs.

What is your education background?

I received a B.S. degree in biology from Kent State University in Ohio. I received my Ph.D. in biology from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York. I did postdoctoral research on gene expression at the Roche Institute of Molecular Biology in Nutley, New Jersey, and at Michigan State University in East Lansing, Michigan.

Why is science education important in our lives?

I really believe that science education is important for everyone. Obviously, as a country, we need people with scientific training to help maintain and advance our technological society. But all of us live in close contact with science and technology. Science education is critical to help young people make rational choices about their personal lives; such as decisions associated with health and the environment. Science education also is vital to prepare an informed citizenry that participates in decision making regarding technical issues; such as those related to energy production, medical ethics, national defense, and digital environments, among others.

What are you working on at BSCS right now, and with whom?

I’m directing a project funded by the National Institutes of Health that will develop a curriculum supplement for middle school students about allergies and scientific inquiry. BSCS Science Educator Anne Westbrook is working with me to write the instructional materials. The Dawson Media Group, located in Portland, Oregon, will help us create multimedia content. BSCS recently completed work on two other NIH curriculum supplements, titled Rare Diseases and Scientific Inquiry and Evolution and Medicine.

In other work, I’m part of a team led by Anne that is developing curriculum materials for K-12 students about type 2 diabetes, funded by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK). Red Hills Studios, San Rafael, Callifornia, is helping us develop multimedia content. I’m also part of a team led by Sue Kowalski that is developing a professional development resource for teachers aimed at helping them teach content about matter and energy. This work is funded by the National Science Foundation. Oregon Public Broadcasting is helping us develop multimedia content.

Who will this work benefit and how does this help bring our mission to life (for you)?

Each of these curriculum projects addresses important science content as well as science practices that relate directly to students’ lives and those of their families. I’m particularly pleased to help develop materials that reach large numbers of young people and help them learn critical thinking skills that will serve them well, regardless of their future occupations.

Have you been published recently in a science journal or publication?

My most recent publication came from a recently completed curriculum project titled Evolution and Medicine.

Beardsley, P., M. Bloom, and S. Wise, Challenges and Opportunities for Teaching and Designing Effective K-12 Evolution Curricula in Evolution Challenges (Oxford University Press, 2012).

Rare Diseases and Scientific Inquiry, Evolution and Medicine, and the upcoming "Allergies and Scientific Inquiry" are funded by the National Institutes of Health Office of Science Education (NIH OSE).