A word about the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)



What are the NGSS, why are they important, and why do I need to pay attention to them?  As the name implies (next generation), these standards truly take inquiry based science to the next level.  For years teachers focused on doing a laboratory activity where some or all of it was more student-directed and less teacher-directed.  Students developed a scientific question, made predictions or formed hypotheses, tested the hypothesis, collected data, analyzed the data, and drew conclusions (THE Scientific Method).  We thought we were doing everything just right!  But there is much more to science and engineering than The Scientific Method!  First of all, all scientists do not approach a problem in the same way.  Engineers approach problems in a very different way.  Teachers were not properly preparing students for future endeavors!  If you want to know more about the development or the standards themselves, go to http://www.nextgenscience.org/.  Many states have now adopted these standards outright, and many more have written (or are in the process of writing) their own standards based upon the NGSS.

Some things I like about the NGSS:

  1. There is a focus on “practices” rather than “skills,” which make studying scientific disciplines more like being a “real scientist.” They include an engineering component.  My husband is an engineer.  It is not a vocation; it is a genetic trait (at least in his case)!  I am a scientist.  We do approach problems differently.  I worked as a chemist in quality control.  I would test samples and compare them to a standard.  My goal was to produce a product of consistent quality.  My husband worked in industry, and always had a “customer” with a problem.  He would take the customer’s problem, and design a solution for the customer’s problem.  All students will not become either scientists or engineers, but our highly technical life demands that we be much more scientifically literate, and literate in engineering practices.
  2. The NGSS include “crosscutting concepts” which are fundamental themes that cross disciplinary lines, such as matter and energy, cause and effect, etc. What a depth of understanding a child will possess after having looked ad how energy relates to all of the sciences!
  3. The NGSS also include “Disciplinary Core Ideas” which enable students to study in depth in fewer topics, to give students a core foundation on which to build other ideas.

Imagine a student being asked to create a model of how they think an odor molecule travels throughout a room (IQWST at Activate Learning).  The student creates a visual model of how they initially think this happens.  The student revises the model as they progress through the unit.  Information that contributes to changes in their models is acquired through inquiry based investigations, as well as library research.  Isn’t this more like the way a “real scientist” works?

I’d like to say a word about how I align books to the NGSS.  Please bear in mind that a single book may not completely address a standard.  Trade books in the classroom might be used to introduce a lesson or unit, or used as supplementary material for a student who wants to know more about a particular topic.  Some of the books I review do include activities for classroom or home use.  These may come closer to fully addressing a standard.  However, I may not be aligning all activities in a book, only the ones mentioned in the review.

So what does a retired teacher know about the NGSS?  While I worked as an educational consultant for my state assessment program, various school districts, and a textbook company, I was required to align many lessons, presentations, and textbook materials to state standards and the NGSS.   In addition while teaching I earned National Board Certification in Chemistry and was awarded the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science Teaching.  Both of these endeavors required that my writing and lessons used be aligned to state and national standards.  Finally, I was asked to write an introductory course for the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD) on The Next Generation Science Standards:  An Introduction ).  Please contact me if you have questions!


A Question about the NGSS

A colleague asked what the “code” in front of the NGSS standards means. We are often so focused on the jargon of our own discipline that we forget there are others that do not speak our vernacular. My apologies!
For each standard I have listed below my reviews the first letter or number refers to the grade level (K = Kindergarten, MS = Middle School).
The letters that follow the grade level refer to the discipline:
LS = Life Science
ESS = Earth and Space Science
PS = Physical Science
Finally, the number at the end of the code refers to the order in which it originally appeared in the


Framework for K-12 Science Education, the research-based document which is the foundation for the Next Generation Science Standards.
Go to http://www.nextgenscience.org/sites/default/files/How%20to%20Read%20NGSS%20-%20Final%204-19-13.pdf for more information on how to “read” the standards.

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