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Sputnik and United States K--12 science education

Donna Leigh Hare, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


The intention of this study was to examine the relationships of the United States space program, education (especially science education), politics, and the National Science Foundation (NSF) to each other and the effects set in motion by the Russian's launch of Sputnik I upon those entities and their relationships. It provides a preliminary assessment of developments in United States rocket science as well as science education to the early 1950s. The scope of this investigation was confined to the historical development of four distinct yet related entities; (1) U.S. science education, (2) space exploration, (3) government and politics, and (4) the National Science Foundation. Its focus was on the years 1957 to 1966. The launch of Sputnik I in 1957, the passage of the National Defense Education Act (NDEA) in 1958, the Secondary Education Act in 1965 and the end of the Gemini program in 1966 represent the defining benchmarks for this study. 169 ^ The most significant and durable outcomes of the Sputnik crisis in relation to science education were: (1) a formalized linkage between science education and national defense; (2) federal funding to education; (3) the passage of the NDEA with its entitlements; (4) the alignment of the NSF with precollege science education issues; (5) NSF Summer Institutes for Science Teachers and NSF Science Course Improvement Projects; and (6) the establishment of response to perceived threat to national defense as a legislative and funding support mechanism for science education. ^

Subject Area

Education, History of|Education, Sciences

Recommended Citation

Hare, Donna Leigh, "Sputnik and United States K--12 science education" (1999). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI9942167.