Phenomena for Next Generation Science Standards

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by David Bailis, STEM Content Director

The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) are different from the science content standards of old because they are not simply based on knowing random science content. Before the NGSS, a student may have been asked to know only the three basic states of matter: solid, liquid, and gas, and the properties of those states by rote. The NGSS requires students to dig deeper into the science concepts in a multi-dimensional way.

The NGSS has three-dimensions:

  • Disciplinary Core Ideas (similar to the aforementioned science content standards of old)
  • Crosscutting Concepts (links between different areas of science content that help students see patterns throughout)
  • Science and Engineering Practices (links to practical/creative ways to show how science is done, not just discussed)

A new addition to this multiple-dimensional approach to science learning is the use of phenomena. Phenomena are observable events in nature that help to connect the NGSS multi-dimensional approach to students’ lives in a more thoughtful way. A phenomena helps make learning science using the NGSS method more meaningful (and fun!) for students by applying these events to real-world situations. Examples could include learning the physics of moving medical materials to Liberia to stem an Ebola outbreak, to discussing the relevance of the effects of natural selection and evolution of MRSA infections, to learning more about genetics.

This article explains how educators can develop a process for useful phenomena when teaching scientific concepts. By using the phenomena approach as part of the NGSS method, students will develop a more comprehensive understanding of how science is all around them.

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