This paper reviews the significant sociocultural literatures on science studies, cultural diversity, and sustainability science to develop theoretical perspectives for science education more suitable to the challenges of contemporaneity. While the influences of science studies and cultural diversity are not uncommon within the science education literature on innovation, the difference here is the inclusion of the newer field of sustainability science. These threads are drawn are together to help formulate a view of science education that contributes to the ongoing discussion of what it could be in the 21st century. Finally, a science unit in a preservice teacher education course is then described, which aims to engage, inform, and empower beginning teachers in ways that tackle the challenges of contemporaneity. © 2007 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Sci Ed92:165–181, 2008