Your Questions About NGSS Phenomena Answered

May 24, 2020 No Comments

You know that you should be using phenomena in your NGSS classroom.  But what are phenomena?  Where do you find it?  What makes good phenomena? Get the answers to all of your questions here.

What are NGSS Phenomena?

NGSS phenomena are found in the natural or designed world.  In science, phenomena are what cause scientists to ask questions.  In engineering, phenomena are problems that require a solution.

For example, a phenomenon might include the way that the moon appears to change shape throughout the month.  Another phenomenon might be that your local air pollution levels are higher than in the surrounding areas.

Phenomena can be events, things that we observe, and issues that we face.  They can be presented in the form of videos, graphs, maps, images, and narratives.

What makes good NGSS phenomena?

A good phenomenon is one that causes students to wonder. Or, a good phenomenon will help get students invested in finding a solution.  For this reason, I find that phenomena that students encounter in their everyday lives or phenomena that can be found locally make the best phenomena.

Essentially, phenomena are what make students care about the information that you are presenting in class.

What makes bad phenomena?

There are two things that make an NGSS phenomenon bad.

  • Spoilers. Spoilers explain the phenomenon in too much detail.  So, this means that they take away the “wonder”.  Spoilers are most often found in the videos.  However, text and other forms can also contain spoilers.
  • The phenomenon is not engaging.  If your students don’t care about phenomena, it won’t cause them to wonder.  Above all, your phenomena must be something that your students want to investigate. Your instructional sequences will be lackluster and have limited engagement because students aren’t interested in finding “the answer”.

Where can I find good phenomena?

Phenomena can be found in a wide range of places.  For instance, here are a few of my favorite places to look:

  • Phenomena Websites: Project Phenomena, NGSSPhenomena.com, the Wonder of Science, and several other sites are dedicated to presenting phenomena.
  • Social Media: YouTube, Giphy, and even TikTok make great places to find things that your students will be curious about.  (TikTok is great for physics-related content as there are several Rube Goldberg style setups.  But beware, you will have to shift through content that is not school appropriate.)
  • Look local: Look for local issues using local news organizations, governmental organizations, and even local Facebook groups.
  • Ask the parents and fellow teachers.  If you don’t live where you teach, seek help from the people around you.  They can be a wealth of information about local issues.

Next Steps

Do you want to learn more about phenomena?  Check out these posts:

What questions do you have about NGSS phenomena?

Erin Sadler

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