Simple Phenomena for NGSS

Phenomena

As I have said before, it is vital that we use phenomena to drive lessons in an NGSS aligned classroom and engage your learners.  It is vital that teachers select clear phenomena whenever possible.

Post overview

What are some good phenomena and why should you use them?

The best phenomena are related to the things that your students experience in their day-to-day lives.  When they are familiar to students, students can easily use them to generate questions which can be used to build your storyline.

A well chosen phenomena helps your students make connections to their real world.

Simple, but not too simple.

I find that most teachers try to use overly complicated phenomena when they are getting started with the NGSS.  That’s why I like to focus on simplicity.

However, you don’t want your phenomena to be too simple.  Students should not be able to quickly explain the phenomenon.  There is a sweet spot between highly complicated phenomena and phenomena that are too simple.

What are some examples of good phenomena?

  • Patterns in the sky.  I created these journals for use in my 8th grade integrated science classroom.  Students logged the pathway of the sun and wrote down the shape of the moon for 4 weeks.  We used these observations as phenomena for our solar system unit.  (This product is available on my TPT Store.)   These observations are excellent phenomena because they are observations that students make in their day-to-day lives.  Check out how many requirements this activity fulfills from the evidence statement for MS-ESS1-1.

Solar Lunar Journal

  • Cement slide and cardboard: There is a local park in our area that is made of cement.  During the summer, the slide is littered with cardboard pieces.  Kids spend hours sifting through these discarded pieces in order to find the perfect piece to use to help them go down the slide.  Why?  The cardboard reduces friction.  Students could use this phenomenon to the disciplinary core idea PS2.A: Forces and Motion. 

This cement slide is too rough to go down without cardboard to reduce friction.

    • Ant Takeover: One time ants took over my kitchen.  It was an unpleasant experience but definitely a relatable one.  This might be a great way to introduce animal behavior (MS-LS1-4) to your students.   Ants are annoying, but also absolutely fascinating.  This phenomenon is sure to generate many student questions.

Kitchen Ants are a great phenomenon.

Where can I find good a good phenomenon?

  • Local events and issues are a great place to start.  Take a walk or drive around the area surrounding your school.  Talk to teachers that have worked in the neighborhood for a long time.  Join a Facebook group in the neighborhood where you teach to find out what issues the community faces.
  • Check out my small but growing list of phenomena on Instagram by searching for the hastag #ssphenomena.
  • YouTube is a great place to look for engaging events and materials that can be used to frame your units around.  However, when you are using videos in your classroom, make sure that they don’t give too much away.

Want to learn more?

Check out Season 1, Episode 7 of the Teaching Science in 3D Podcast to learn more.   Listen here, or wherever you listen to your favorite podcast.

What are your favorite resources?  Comment below.

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2 thoughts on “Simple Phenomena for NGSS”

  1. Finding phenomena is an area of struggle for me. I was trying to find an anchoring phenomena for my “patterns in the sky” segment, and I think your idea of a solar/lunar journal is a great idea! Side note….I have scouted a local cement slide to try out now, too!
    Thank you!

  2. I don’t remember what grade level you are in, but when my daughter was in first grade I wrote a lesson for her where she went outside a few times during a day and I traced her shadow with chalk. The next day, we went out at the same time and looked at the chalk to see that they basically lined up.

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