Decoding the NGSS
The adoption of the Next Generation Science Standards, and similar science standards based on the NRC Framework for K-12 Science Education (e.g., NYSSLS in New York), resulted in many changes to K-5 science curriculum requirements and assessments .

"What does it all mean?" "How am I supposed to fit everything in?" "Realistically, how am I supposed to incorporate these new learning objectives into my daily lessons?"  These are just a few of the reactions we hear from K-5 teachers across the country.

So we launched a weekly tip series, Decoding the NGSS to help interpret the spirit of NGSS and provide simple ways to incorporate 3-dimensional learning and the nature of science into your busy K-5 classroom.

Each Tuesday we publish a new tip on our website and at the end of the month we'll send out a short email summary.

Do you have a NGSS concept you've been wondering about? Drop us a line here with the subject line "Decode My NGSS."
February Summary

Hiding In Plain Sight -
The Tool You Use Without Knowing It

While the thought of teaching more science might seem overwhelming, figuring out how to help your students understand the relationship between science and the world around them, and inspire them to apply what they learn to their lives, probably seems quite daunting.

But as a K-5 teacher, you likely already use a tool every day to teach your students how to write or even to paint in art class - the writing process! So what's that got to do with science? Go to Tip #5 to find out!

Things Aren’t Always as They Seem

Things aren’t always as they seem. A familiar old Indian parable, The Blind Men and the Elephant , tells the tale about a group of blind men who come across an elephant for the first time. Each man touches a different part of the elephant and arrives at a different conclusion about what an elephant is. While no one is incorrect in describing their “observations,” no one has a complete picture of the elephant and therefore, cannot provide an accurate description of the elephant as a whole until they combine information from everyone’s different perspective.
And so it is in science. Scientific knowledge is open to revision with new evidence. So let’s get to Tip #4 for this week!

Time – The Illusive “Golden Snitch” in Elementary Classrooms

The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) promote a philosophy of inquiry-based student-directed learning. While this approach is shown to be more effective at reaching all students ( 1 , 2 , 3 ) there is little debate that this teaching method takes more “classroom hours” than teacher-based direct instruction.

So, in an elementary day, with teaching time already constrained by students leaving for RTI, out-of-classroom specials, and a national focus on ELA and math, how do you find more time to teach science? Go to Tip #3 to find out!

Crosscutting Concepts Front and Center: The “Kitchen Organizers” for Understanding and Using Scientific Knowledge   

The crosscutting concepts (CCCs) —previously labeled as "themes" or "unifying principles"—are the mental bins into which different pieces of information can be organized. As in your kitchen, you have a cupboard for plates (e.g., patterns), one for glasses (e.g., structure function), and a cutlery drawer (e.g., cause and effect).

In each of these bins you have a lot of different items which represent the performance expectations (PEs), science and engineering practices (SEPs), and disciplinary core ideas (DCIs). These are like the knives, forks, and spoons in the cutlery drawer. You know that if you need something to eat your food with you look in the cutlery drawer. Similarly, if you are trying to understand the result of an event (e.g., what do plants need to grow?) you look in your “cause and effect drawer" (e.g., plants need water and sun to grow).
Innovation-driven Phenomena for
K-5 Classrooms