Medicine & Science

Contend Projects Advocates for Correct Science Standards

When Brooke Stanton and Christiane West founded Contend Projects—a nonpartisan science education nonprofit—in 2015, they had no idea the impact they would have on children, on families, and within communities. And now, after recently releasing their second book, the women are embarking on their greatest undertaking yet—convincing states to change their science curricula to reflect accurate science regarding the beginning of human life.

Why is this necessary? It may shock you to learn that schools do not teach the correct science about human embryology. These curricula teach that a baby’s life begins at birth rather than at fertilization. We know that this is not true.

Yet we also know that the truth behind the science is simple. And it’s not something up for debate. Embryologists agree that a preborn baby is a growing human being from the moment of fertilization. By teaching incorrect science, we as a society are doing an immense disservice to our children.

But how many people actually know that the baby’s life begins at fertilization? Further, how many people know about the Carnegie Stages of Human Development—the 23 stages of embryonic development that explain the science behind how a human being grows?

As a society, we must ask ourselves what kind of culture we are passing on to our children when our science textbooks emphasize animal and plant life and information about the environment but ignore the truth about when human life starts. This truth of human development is information that all human beings should know.

So, through the work of Contend Projects, Brooke and Christiane have set out to change this. Their first book, When You Became You (featured in our Spring 2021 issue), teaches young children about the continuum of life and about their development from the time they were created.  

They are now promoting their latest book and working with states to update their science standards to include the fact that human beings begin at fertilization.

The First 56 Days of You

Brooke and Christiane believe that science needs to be simple and accessible to everyone from a young age, and that is one of the striking things about their latest book, The First 56 Days of You: How Your Human Journey Begins.

With beautiful and scientifically accurate images, The First 56 Days of You shows children exactly what a baby in the embryonic stages looks like. Set in a museum depicting children on a field trip exploring the history of humans, the book defines—in age-appropriate language—the process of fertilization, helping children understand that human life begins at that moment and not at birth. The book goes on to teach that scientists organize the first 56 days—or the embryonic period—into 23 stages; these are called the Carnegie Stages of Human Development.

As The First 56 Days of You explains, “The fastest and most intense part of your development happens during the first 56 days.” Evoking awe and inspiring wonder at the miraculous development of human beings, the book offers tangible illustrations of how quickly a human being grows.

Arming students with this knowledge is vital if we want to create a culture where all people—no matter their stage of development—are protected and cherished.

The response since the new book’s release has been overwhelmingly positive because of its uniqueness, with people exclaiming that they have not seen anything else like it. As Brooke stated, there is nothing controversial about this book; “it’s straight up science.” The truth within its pages is information that we should all know as human beings, especially with the amount of misinformation given through news and social media.

Correct science, as taught in this book, is the foundation that families and schools must build upon if we want to create a culture that respects and values all human beings. We know that erroneous information about human development leads to the dehumanization of the preborn baby. When students are taught from an early age that life begins at birth, they grow to be teens and adults who find it easy to devalue the growing baby.

However, when children are taught from the time they are small that a human being is a separate person from the first moment of creation and has all the DNA he will ever get, this becomes part of their basic knowledge. And when students truly understand the humanity of a preborn baby, they are more likely to protect the baby, as well as vulnerable human beings at any stage of development.

This is why Contend Projects’ books should be in all school libraries and why all children should hear these scientific facts often and repeatedly as they grow. And it’s why Contend Projects’ greatest endeavor yet will yield such amazing results.

School science education standards

Reaching children through beautiful picture books is a fantastic start, but Brooke and Christiane have now set their sights on a national scale. Like most parents, they were appalled to find that science standards—even in Catholic schools—currently teach that a human life cycle is birth to death.

This is incredibly confusing to students who learn the truth about human development in religion class but then learn something different in science. And this leads to people thinking that abortion is simply a religious matter when in fact it’s a human rights matter.

While doing beta testing for The First 56 Days of You, Brooke and Christiane went into schools to ascertain what kids know about human development and to talk about the correct science. In assemblies of 7th and 8th graders, they administered pretests that asked when a baby’s life begins. The majority of students said at birth or when a heart starts beating. The women taught why this is wrong and then introduced the Carnegie Stages. They showed pictures of the growing baby. They discussed development. And they opened the eyes of so many children who had never heard this information before.

By teaching this crucial material, Contend Projects gives students scientific knowledge that empowers them to stand up for life. As the women have found, many students find it much easier to stand up for science than for religious beliefs.

This is why the science standards must change.

It’s a monumental task, but Contend Projects now has help. It has recently partnered with the Charlotte Lozier Institute—the research arm of Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America—and Cardinal Studios to develop and roll out a digital platform that aligns with the correct science standards. This turnkey human development education website/hub will contain videos and downloadable lessons for each grade level that teach the correct science standards.

Our culture desperately needs to hear this truth.

Brooke and Christiane have met with government leaders in many different states. Bill Lee, the governor of Tennessee, is one of them. Last year, Governor Lee stated that he is committed to updating Tennessee’s science standards so that they reflect the accurate science about when a human life starts and that they explicitly address the Carnegie Stages of Human Development. To date, several states are vying to be the first to implement these standards.

We know that updating textbooks takes time. However, updating the standards themselves is something that can be done on a quicker timetable. Until new textbooks are printed, schools can provide supplemental materials to teachers. This is why the digital platform created with Cardinal Studios is so crucial. School districts, parents, and teachers can quickly find the right module at the appropriate level and teach it to their students.

The goal now is to get more states on board with updating their curricula. History has shown that, when the larger states (like Florida, California, and Texas) adopt new standards, other states will follow. Brooke and Christiane are hoping that is the case with new science standards as well.

They also explained that states can take a legislative route to changing the science standards. By enacting a Human Embryology Education Act or something similarly worded, states can mandate that the correct science be taught to kids.

Hope for the future

This is truly an exciting time for Contend Projects, as both Brooke and Christiane work to close the knowledge gap and to help young people see the humanity of preborn babies. They believe that the partnership with the Charlotte Lozier Institute and Cardinal Studios will lead to countless numbers of children finally hearing and understanding the correct science.

Contend Projects has already raised nearly half of the funds it needs to roll out the digital platform. If they can get the program completely funded in the early months of 2024, it could be ready to roll out to schools in the fall.

Imagine the impact this would make on today’s students and on future generations.

We will only win the war against the culture of death if we consistently battle with the truth. And Contend Projects is valiantly leading that battle. We have no doubt they will lead us to victory.

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About the author

Susan Ciancio

Susan Ciancio is the editor of Celebrate Life Magazine and executive editor for the Culture of Life Studies Program.