The Science Education Resource Center (SERC) was established at San Jose State University in 1958 by the Science Education Department to assist SJSU students who were preparing to teach science in grades K-12. It began with materials collected by faculty members for their own teaching, at professional meetings and from class projects that students were willing to donate.
SJSU was founded as Minn's Evening Normal School in 1857 and has always had a strong teacher preparation program, including science. When the first Normal School building was opened in San Jose in 1871 it contained a museum on the top floor. Apparently it had shells, rocks, minerals, feathers and other natural artifacts for students to use in their preparation to teach in grammar schools (K-8).
For many years the living animal collection, now called the Wildlife Ambassador Program, was also used in the college of natural history natural science classes. A boa constrictor and Desert Tortoise were regulars. Farusha, a boa that was in the collection for more than 20 years, was featured in a Spartan Daily article almost every year. Now because the animals are housed in a building that meets National Institutes of Health standards, the restrictions about care and use are more detailed.
Many of the preserved animals were students products from the Museum Techniques course. Science collecting of organisms is now illegal making this teaching collection even more valuable. Skeletons and shells in many cases come from student collections of many years ago. The Center has also received donations of rocks, minerals and fossils from USGS and BAESI. The earth science collection of maps and kits were also greatly expanded several years ago, thanks to a large donation of materials from the USGS when they stopped keeping such materials at the Menlo Park office. In addition, there is a large collection of rocks and minerals, many dating back to the early years of SERC.
More of the physical science materials are newer. Many of the models and simple demonstrations have been replaced with more current versions. But there are astronomy materials about the solar system and constellations that have remained. Newer resources include sunspotters and drift globes.
Starting in 2011, SERC partnered with Debra Caires and her CS100W students to give SERC a technical make over. SJSU Computer Science students created a new updated SERC webpage and social media presence on the internet. They also designed and built a specialized database to inventory all the SERC resources.