Simple Phenomena


As I have said before, it is vital that we use phenomena to drive lessons in an NGSS aligned classroom.  I get a lot of questions about phenomena and also see a lot of missteps that teachers make when selecting phenomena.  It is vital that teachers select simple phenomena whenever possible.

Simple Phenomena

What are simple phenomena and why should you use them?

Simple phenomena are phenomena that students experience in their day-to-day lives.  Because they are familiar to students, students can easily use phenomena to generate questions which can be used to build your storyline.

It is important to use simple phenomena because they are relatable. Students can often feel disconnected from science because they fail to see the real world application.  Simple phenomena can make this connection for your students.

What are some examples of simple phenomena?

  • Solar and Lunar Journals: 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 our anchoring 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 part 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. 

Cardboard Slide

    • Ant Takeover: One time ants took over my kitchen.  It was an unpleasant experience but an excellent phenomenon to introduce animal behavior (MS-LS1-4).   Ants are annoying, but also absolutely fascinating.  This phenomenon is sure to generate many student questions.


Kitchen Ants

Where can I find simple phenomena?

  • Local phenomena are best.  Take a walk or drive around the area surrounding your school.  Talk to teachers that have worked in the neighborhood for a long time.  These are your best resources.
  • Check out my small but growing list of simple phenomena on Instagram by searching for the hastag #ssphenomena.
  • Check out the wide range of phenomena websites, but remember not to select phenomena that aren’t relatable or are too complex.

What are your favorite phenomena to use in your classroom?  Comment below.



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2 thoughts on “Simple Phenomena”

  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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