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Natural Sciences Education M.N.S.E.

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Degree Overview Open Accordion

CSU's online master's in science education degree helps you improve your knowledge of biology, chemistry, physics, and environmental science, and develop creative teaching strategies to be a more effective science educator.

Earn your master's in science education online

Educational background and coursework beyond an undergraduate degree are both important factors for school districts when they consider which teachers to retain, promote, and offer a pay increase. School districts may also evaluate teachers’ academic backgrounds when choosing new department heads. Start enhancing your professional credentials and expertise by earning your master’s degree in a program created specifically for current and aspiring natural science teachers.

Take the next step in your career with a science education degree

This Master of Natural Sciences Education (M.N.S.E.) is a good fit for you if you are:

  • A current science teacher interested in learning new pedagogical techniques, or gaining the flexibility to teach other natural science disciplines.
  • An individual with a strong science background and experience in educational settings who is interested in teaching natural science and separately pursue a teaching certification.

Strengthen both your science and teaching expertise

This master's in science education helps you refresh and expand your knowledge of biology, chemistry, physics, and environmental science. Through the use of science lab kits created specifically for individual courses within the program, you get hands-on experience with experiments and projects that you can bring into your own classroom.

Additionally, you will gain tools to improve student learning and engagement by immersing yourself in coursework related to curriculum development, instructional theory, and pedagogy. Start advancing your instructional skills with courses that explore classroom management, presentation skills, communication, and discipline.

Benefit from CSU's strong STEM reputation

Colorado State University graduates more individuals in STEM disciplines (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) than any other Colorado campus, and prepares more STEM teachers than any other university in the state.

Curriculum Open Accordion

The Master of Natural Sciences Education requires completion of 30-31 credits. All courses are offered online and you have two different paths to choose from:

  • Coursework Option
  • Research Option

The option you choose will affect which classes and requirements you'll need to complete to earn your degree.

Coursework Option Requirements

The coursework option requires completion of 30 credits, including:

  • 9 credits of Education Courses
  • 18 credits of Natural Sciences Courses
  • 3 credits of Independent Study

Research Option Requirements

The research option requires completion of a 30 credits, including:

  • 9 credits of Education Courses
  • 15 credits of Natural Sciences Courses
  • 6 credits earned for a research project


All science-related coursework is tailored for teachers and focuses on how you can incorporate lessons into your own classroom.

Education Courses (9 credits)

Develop a foundation in research, curriculum development, and policy. EDRM 602 and EDUC 660 are required for the M.N.S.E. degree. Students select either EDUC 619 or NSCI 612; students cannot receive credit for both courses for the M.N.S.E. degree.

Natural Science Courses (15-18 credits)

Expand your knowledge in a specific science discipline.

Course Descriptions Open Accordion
STAR 511 – Design and Data Analysis for Researchers I: R Software

Statistical methods for experimenters/researchers emphasizing design and analysis of experiments using R software.

EDRM 602 – Action Research

Provide educators with knowledge and skills to plan and implement school-based research to improve teaching and learning.

NSCI 612 – Myth Busters: Science/Controversy/Evaluation

What is science? What isn’t? Modern western science is a product of the Age of Reason in the 18th century, but its origins are traced back to the ancient Greeks. Skepticism and the scientific method are critical to modern scientific practice. Throughout history there has always been an uneasy relationship between science and culture. Science as a human activity is influenced by culture and vice versa. The course weaves science philosophy, methodology, and history with social and cultural contexts. “Culture wars” centered around heliocentrism, evolution, relativity, continental drift, genetically-modified organisms, and climate change are examined. A major part of the course is devoted to evaluating claims purporting to use “scientific” evidence. Are there common strategies that people use? The placebo effect and confirmation bias are discussed. The goal is to equip you with practical tools for making science-informed decisions, and not simply accept a claim at face value; in other words, being a skeptic. The course concludes with a section on bioethics and social policy, using The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks as a resource.

EDUC 619 – Curriculum Development

Curriculum Development seeks to provide practicing and pre-service classroom teachers and administrators with a framework for making curriculum decisions. The course examines historical traditions, curriculum philosophies, best practice instructional theories, contemporary curriculum issues, standards practices, and backward design theory.

NSCI 619A – Physics for Educators: Optics

Ray, wave, and particle models of light, with diverse applications. Introduction to special relativity and quantum physics via light. Includes regular at-home, hands-on activities.

NSCI 619B – Physics for Educators: Mechanics

NSCI 619B is a course in classical mechanics. Unlike most such courses, in which student effort is devoted largely to solving textbook-style problems, this course is organized around investigating phenomena in mechanics using the IOLab wireless lab system. The IOLab includes all of the sensors found on modern smartphones as well as a force probe and "wheel sensor". Most topics found in an introductory college-level mechanics course (linear and rotational kinematics and dynamics, friction, oscillations, fluid statics, sound) are explored using those tools. In addition, students are introduced to the physics education research literature. A Science Lab Kit is utilized during this course.

NSCI 620 – Chemistry for Science Educators

NSCI 620 explores how the structure and chemical properties of molecules are related. It covers chemical bonding, thermodynamics, states of matter, surface chemistry, solubility, and acid-base chemistry. The unique molecular properties of water provide a focus to understand such diverse phenomena as surface tension, cloud formation, protein folding, detergents, thunderstorms, and water quality. This course includes experimental work such as conducting basic experiments on the properties of water in its different states, constructing a global hydrolytic cycle, and measuring the pH of various solutions. A Science Lab Kit is utilized during this course.

NSCI 630 – Spectroscopy for Science Educators

Theory and applications for spectroscopy for grade 6-23 science teachers. A Science Lab Kitis utilized during this course.

NSCI 640 – Energetics for Science Educators

This course explores the production and use of energy. Topics covered are thermodynamics, energy conversion and efficiency, biochemistry of energy metabolism, and global energy production. Lab exercises encompass experiments like using microencapsulated liquid crystal sheets to track energy flow, calculating equilibrium constants from thermodynamic parameters, and analyzing energy expenditure in athletic performance. A Science Lab Kit is utilized during this course.

NSCI 650 – Pollution and Environmental Biology for Educators

The course is designed for grade 6-12 science teachers. It explores the environmental consequences of energy production and consumption. The topics covered include the effects that oxides of carbon, nitrogen and sulfur and mercury pollution have on biological systems and the methods and technologies for ameliorating and/or reducing emissions.

After successfully completing this course, the student will be able to:

  • Develop and implement methods for teaching lab exercises in pollution chemistry and biology appropriate for secondary school science curricula
  • Understand, in a very concrete way, how to teach and demonstrate, in a secondary school setting, basic knowledge concerning pollution and its environmental consequences
  • Understand the effects of pollutants from fossil fuel combustion on animals and plants
EDUC 660 – Advanced Methods-Science and Math Instruction

Knowledge and skills to improve the teaching of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics for in service K-12 teachers.

NSCI 660 – Evolutionary Biology for Educators

NSCI 660 focuses on the processes and patterns of evolution. You study the four mechanisms of evolutionary change and how that change creates the complex biodiversity of the world. Topics covered are the mechanisms of evolution, mendelian genetics, quantitative genetics, phylogenetics, speciation, adaptation, origins of life hypotheses, evolution and medicine, evolution and conservation, life history, sexual selection, human evolution and developmental biology and evolution. Exercises range from problem solving to essays based on the reading of primary literature and articles intended for broad audiences. Some of the problem-solving exercises use simulation software to explore how the mechanisms of evolution alter the frequency of alleles in populations.

NSCI 665 – General Ecology for Science Educators

This course will provide a broad overview of fundamental ecological concepts for grade 6-12 science teachers. It will explore the interrelationships among organisms and their environment as well as foundational concepts for the various levels of ecological organization from individuals to populations, communities, and ecosystems.

NSCI 670 – Earth Sciences for Educators

Foundation in earth sciences for secondary science teachers, emphasizing societal relevance and context. Topics include earth science methods and thinking, plate tectonics, minerals and mineral resources, rock formation and identification, geologic time, systems, the hydrologic cycle and water resources, climate, carbon, and energy. A Science Lab Kit is utilized during this course.

NSCI 695 – Independent Study for the M.N.S.E.

Independent study immerses you in the primary scientific literature in biology, chemistry, or physics, and allows you to further tailor the degree toward your preferred science discipline. This study can be completed during any semester throughout the degree, and involves weekly meetings (in-person or at a distance) with your research advisor. It does not require access to CSU campus or another research institution.

NSCI 698 – Research Experience in Natural Sciences

In collaboration with an advisor, you develop and complete research in your preferred science discipline. Advisors assist in creating the project and in identifying a research location. The experience can be completed during any semester after your first year in the program, either at CSU or at a research institution convenient to you. Advisors have regular faculty appointments in the Departments of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology, Biology, Chemistry, or Physics.

Science Lab Kits Open Accordion

Science Lab Kits One of the best ways to learn about science is through experimentation and exploration, and our science lab kits give you the opportunity to do just that. These kits contain materials to complement what you learn in your courses, and bring hands-on learning to you at a distance. Experiment with a camera obscura, energy flow, chemical reactions, and more from your own home, then incorporate these activities in your K-12 classroom.

The lab kits contain traditional and non-traditional items to use in scientific experiments, allowing you and your science students to conduct real experiments with safe and appropriately scaled equipment. Each kit is designed to be:

  • Replenishable: The kits can be used, easily restocked, and reused again and again, especially for those working within limited budgets.
  • Accessible: The actual experiments are extremely accessible and portable.
  • Safe: The chemical quantities and concentrations are appropriate for scientific study as well as safe disposal.

Each kit is designed for a specific course or lesson, and the contents of the kits change based on the instructor's specifications from year to year. Many lessons require you to perform a set of experiments with the kit and then create an appropriate lesson plan for use in your own classroom. The lab kits are used within various NSCI courses and are yours to keep.

Lab Kits in Action

Watch this video and learn how to build a low-cost spectrometer—one of the many projects you will learn to conduct with your lab kits.

The lab kits are made possible by the College of Natural Sciences Education and Outreach Center (EOC). The EOC works with faculty to design and prepare the lab kits. The EOC will also help students in the online M.N.S.E. degree locate hard-to-find items for their own classrooms, loan kits for use in the classroom, and provide certain free kits to qualified teachers.

Learning Experience Open Accordion

Courses can be accessed online at any time so you can study when it best fits your schedule. Although this is an online program, you should expect a similar workload to a traditional on-campus program, spending approximately 9-12 hours per week preparing for each three-credit course with activities such as:

  • Downloading and reviewing lecture notes
  • Completing readings, writing papers, and studying for/taking exams
  • Communicating with instructors and classmates via chat rooms, threaded discussions, and email
  • Completing individual or group projects

Take a look at this video demonstration from M.N.S.E. instructor, Martin Gelfand, to get a feel for the online student experience within the program.

Learn more about how online learning works »

Why Choose CSU

As a student in this program, you will receive a degree from a regionally accredited research institution while taking courses at times that fit your busy life. Additionally, you can expect:

  • To Grow in Your Own Scientific Knowledge: Our program, designed specifically for secondary science educators, features a curriculum grounded in the natural sciences and education. Advance your instructional skills while expanding your own expertise in subjects like physics, biology, chemistry, data analysis, and more.
  • An Applied Learning Experience: Experience hands-on learning at a distance with our course-specific science lab kits. Through these scientific experiments, reinforce what you are learning in the online classroom and then repeat the experiment with your students using the low-cost, easy-to-obtain materials.
  • Two Program Options: Choose between a research capstone or a coursework-only capstone in this non-thesis degree. Either option allows the opportunity to deepen expertise in your preferred science discipline through an active research experience or independent study project.
  • Career Enhancement Opportunities: Extend your educational background beyond an undergraduate degree and stand out to school districts with your advanced knowledge and master’s level skill set.
Faculty Open Accordion
Cherie Bornhorst

Cherie BornhorstCherie graduated with a B.S. in Natural Sciences with a minor in Physics Education from Colorado State University. After graduation, she spent 10 years teaching high school Physics in urban and suburban schools in Minnesota and Colorado. She's served as the CO/WY American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT) President and started the Colorado Quarknet Center, which focuses on helping current high school teachers develop their skills and bring real research into the high school classroom setting.

Cherie is also the long-time organizer of the Denver Area Physics Teacher Meetings, where she regularly brought together area Physics teachers to collaborate, share ideas and best practices. She currently works for the Little Shop of Physics, an informal science outreach program at CSU, sharing her love of science with K-12 students and working with area teachers to support science education in the local schools. Cherie feels very fortunate to be a part of the M.N.S.E. program and work with educators from around the globe who are also interested in continued learning and improvement of their practice.

Cherie Bornhorst teaches NSCI 619A and NSCI 619B.

Sean Bryan

Sean BryanSean Bryan has a strong interest in geoscience education and geoscience literacy. His research background is in paleoclimatology and paleoceanography, using geologic archives to understand climate and oceanographic variability prior to the instrumental record. The geological record of climate provides important context for recent climate change and benchmarks for the evaluation of climate models used to predict climate in the future. His work towards this goal involves reconstructing climate and ocean conditions using the stable isotope, trace and minor element, and radiocarbon geochemistry of foraminifera, collected from marine sediment cores, and corals. These geochemical proxies provide information about seawater temperatures, seawater chemistry, ocean circulation and carbon cycling at the time that the foraminifera or corals lived.

Sean Bryan teaches NSCI 670.

Raymond Chard

Raymond ChardRaymond Chard graduated from Colorado State University with a B.S. degree in natural science and a minor in chemistry education. He then completed the Master of Natural Sciences Education program in 2013. He conducted his research experience with Dr. Alan Van Orden, developing spectroscopy lab exercises for science educators that are now part of the NSCI 630 course.

Post-graduation, Raymond Chard worked with several education startup companies focused primarily in online education. In his time outside the business world, he has taught at the secondary and collegiate level, with courses spanning earth system science, environmental science, and chemistry. Raymond joined the M.N.S.E. faculty in 2016. He feels fortunate to have the opportunity to do what he loves — help other educators along their journey to professional excellence.

Raymond Chard teaches NSCI 620 and NSCI 630 with Dr. Van Orden.

Dr. Martin Gelfand

Dr. Martin GelfandDr. Gelfand received a Ph.D. from Cornell University and held postdoctoral research positions at University of California, Los Angeles and University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign before joining the Physics department at Colorado State University. His research area is theoretical and computational condensed-matter physics. Some examples of the diverse problems he has contributed to include magnetic flux structures in thin-film superconductors, model calculations for quantum spin systems, and electronic properties of alkali fullerides.

Dr. Gelfand has a long-standing interest in the ideas and innovative teaching methods coming out of the physics education research community and has served on the American Physical Society Committee on Education. He is delighted to have an opportunity to contribute directly to the professional development of science educators.

Dr. Gelfand teaches NSCI 619A and NSCI 619B.

Dr. Terry Gray

Dr. Terry GrayDr. Gray received his B.S. in molecular biology from Purdue University and his Ph.D. in molecular biology from the University of Oregon. He has been a biology, chemistry, and biochemistry instructor/professor at Calvin College, Colorado State University, and Front Range Community College. He was also a staff scientist in the Chemistry Department at Colorado State University where he wore many hats: IT support, network and system administration, instructional computing, and computational chemist.

Dr. Gray has conducted research in the areas of protein structure, stability, and folding at the University of Oregon, Calvin College, and Texas A&M University. Energy is an interest being spurred on by teaching the chemistry course for non-science majors at Colorado State University, where about a third of the course is devoted to energy and environment related topics. This interest has resulted in two ebooks with co-author Anthony K. Rappé: Molecules of Life with a Chemistry Bootcamp (2016) and Energy: What the World Needs Now (2013-2016). He is also interested in the intersection of religion and science and was a contributor to Perspectives on an Evolving Creation (2003, Eerdmans). Dr Gray has a long-standing involvement with the American Scientific Affiliation.

Dr. Gray teaches NSCI 640.

Dr. Dale Lockwood

Dr. Dale LockwoodDr. Lockwood received his Ph.D. from the University of California Davis and held a postdoctoral position with the Program for Interdisciplinary Mathematics, Ecology, and Statistics at Colorado State University and the National Center for Genetic Resources Preservation. He has taught graduate and undergraduate courses in evolution, ecology, population genetics, general biology, mathematical biology, global environmental sustainability, and various mathematics and computer science subjects.

Dr. Lockwood's research areas are diverse with work in the dispersal of marine species, the population dynamics of rangeland grasshoppers, the ecological genetics of wild relatives of crop species, and the philosophy of ecology. He is active in advising policy makers on a range of scientific issues and is a coach for middle school science competitions.

Dr. Lockwood teaches NSCI 660.

Dr. Donald Mykles

Dr. Donald MyklesDr. Mykles received his Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley and is the director of the M.N.S.E. program. His research concerns the regulation of molting and limb regeneration in crabs and lobsters, including signaling mechanisms in the molting gland, phenotypic changes in skeletal muscle during lobster development, and proteolytic mechanisms mediating molt-induced claw muscle atrophy. Biochemical, immunocytochemical, and molecular biological methods are used.

He also leads the CSU Crab Lab—a dynamic group of postdocs, graduate students, and undergraduate students studying the cellular and molecular mechanisms of the control of molting and limb regeneration in crabs and lobsters.

Dr. Mykles teaches NSCI 612, NSCI 650, NSCI 695, and NSCI 698.

Dr. Justin Reeves

Justin ReevesDr. Reeves received a Ph.D. in ecology from Kent State University. His research has spanned a range of topics including insect ecology, invasive plant control, rangeland ecology, and agriculture, all with a recent focus on climate change. Currently in the Department of Agricultural Biology, Dr. Reeves has also taught for the University Honors Program and the Fish, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology program at CSU. Ecological education (at all levels) is seen by Dr. Reeves as one of the keys to solving the myriad of environmental problems the world faces, so he is excited to have the opportunity to be a part of the M.N.S.E. program.

Dr. Reeves teaches NSCI 665.

Dr. Alan Van Orden

Dr. Alan Van OrdenProfessor Van Orden was born in Champaigne, Illinois and raised in Pocatello, Idaho. After graduating from high school in 1984, he attended Idaho State University for one year and then transferred to Brigham Young University, where he received a B.S. degree in chemistry in 1990. He attended graduate school in the chemistry department at the University of California-Berkeley and received his Ph.D. in physical chemistry in 1996. This was followed by a three-year stint as a postdoctoral researcher at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico.

In 1999, Professor Van Orden joined the Chemistry faculty at Colorado State University where he has taught graduate and undergraduate courses in physical, analytical, and general chemistry. He also supervises a group of student research scientists who specialize in applying the techniques of physical and analytical chemistry to the study of biological molecules and nanometer-sized semiconductor particles. Professor Van Orden and his research group have published over thirty manuscripts in the scientific literature.

Dr. Van Orden teaches NSCI 620 and NSCI 630.

Hear from Our Students Open Accordion

Tori Campbell

Learn how Tori was able to take what she learned with CSU into her own classroom and inspire students to take control of their own learning.

Eric Focht

Eric Focht

“I was drawn to this program because it allowed me to brush up on current scientific trends and also provided teaching resources. My biggest challenge has been creating authentic, real-world environmental science projects. Environmental issues are constantly changing, and it can be time consuming to search for current data. Many of my classes provided resources I could use when creating projects or looking for the most recent scientific facts and figures. My curriculum has been infused with different labs and activities – from spectroscopy labs to energetics activities – and my students are already benefitting from a more hands-on-learning approach.”

Kirsten Ahrens

Kirsten Ahrens

"When I began to look into advanced degree programs, one of the most important factors I considered was that the program needed to have a curriculum that incorporated classes in both education and science. As an educator, I have learned that it is equally important to be a master in your subject area, as well as in your instructional practices and methodology. I believe that the intentional curriculum design of the Master of Natural Sciences Education program [at CSU] will help me develop holistically in my work as a teacher. Another key factor that led me to consider Colorado State University is that this program will allow me to maintain my current teaching position while I pursue my degree. I strongly believe that a critical component to an advanced degree program is the ability to connect your coursework with past and current professional experiences. I am excited about the opportunity to apply newly learned techniques directly to my current teaching position and also to share my experiences with my professors and classmates. The third factor that led me to consider this program is the ability to explore passion areas through the independent study and research components that are built into the curriculum."

How to Apply Open Accordion

Application Deadlines

Fall semester July 15
Spring semester November 1

Start your application online and upload materials directly into the online system. You can save your progress and return any time.

Apply Now

1Review Admission Requirements

The Master of Natural Sciences Education (M.N.S.E.) degree requires you to have the following, at a minimum:

  • A bachelor's degree in a science or science-related discipline from a regionally accredited institution
  • A 3.0 GPA in undergraduate coursework (exceptions may be made for students who are applying through Track II Admission)
  • Be a practicing instructor and/or licensed educator
  • Applicants with strong science backgrounds and a desire to become educators are considered for admission on a provisional basis. (Note: The M.N.S.E. program does not provide a teaching license.)
  • GRE test scores are not required

Note that meeting the minimum standards does not ensure admission to the program. Admission to Colorado State University graduate programs is based on a number of factors, including prior academic and professional experience and the personal statement.

2 Prepare Application Materials

Prepare the materials below and upload when you apply online.

  • Two letters of recommendation
    Two professional recommendations are required. It is recommended that letters come from faculty, supervisors, or others who can accurately speak to your skills as a science teacher and student. You will provide information about your recommenders in the online application. CSU will contact them with instructions and a link to a secure form they will submit on your behalf.
  • Resume or vita
    Outline your professional employment, collegiate work, and any publications, exhibitions, service activities, prizes, and awards.
  • Statement of purpose
    The statement of purpose is typically 1-2 pages and briefly describes your background, educational goals, research interests, and why you would be a good fit in the program. Please include if you would like to pursue the Coursework Option or Research Option in your statement. Please include your statement in the online application process.

3 Complete Online Application

Complete the online graduate application and pay the nonrefundable application processing fee (payable online). As soon as you have completed the required information, please submit your application. Your application will not be reviewed until it is complete and all required materials have been received.

  • Select “Natural Sciences Education M.N.S.E. – Distance” when choosing the program of study.

4 Request Transcripts

Request one official transcript of all collegiate work completed from all institutions attended. Transcripts from Colorado State University are not required. Transcripts must be received directly from the originating institution to be considered official.

Please Note: Students may be unconditionally admitted and registered in their first semester of courses with an unofficial transcript. Official transcripts must be submitted, prior to or during your first semester, before you can register for your second semester of graduate work. Failure to meet this condition will result in your dismissal from the Graduate School.

Electronic (preferred):
Digital Transcripts must be submitted by the originating institution using a secure service such as parchment, eScrip-Safe, the National Student Clearinghouse, or e-Quals. Transcripts received via emails are considered unofficial.

Use institution code 4075 for Colorado State University or if the secure service requires an email address.

Mail (if necessary)
Graduate Admissions
Colorado State University – Office of Admissions
1062 Campus Delivery
Fort Collins, CO 80523-1062

Check Your Application Status

View your application status at any time to ensure your application checklist is complete or to check on updates.

Once your complete application, including supporting materials, is received, the department admission committee will review your application and notify you of their decision.

For International Applicants

Proof of English language proficiency is required for applicants from countries or United States territories where there are official languages other than (or in addition to) English. This includes the U.S. territories of American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, and Puerto Rico.

Learn more about English language proficiency requirements.


We love learning about your goals and answering any questions you have.

Alex Broz
Prospective Student Support Coach
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Program Details

$640 per credit
Same in-state tuition for all.
Learn more about financial aid and scholarships Tuition/fees are just part of the cost to attend CSU. Learn more about the full Cost of Attendance
Degree Awarded
Master of Natural Sciences Education in Natural Sciences Education
Time Frame
Can be completed in 2 years
Admission Reqs.
  • 3.0 GPA on all undergraduate coursework
  • Math Entrance Exam scores recommended for applicants who have not taken the required prerequisites within the past 10 years

Application Dates

Fall semester
July 15
Spring semester
November 1

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