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Everything You Want to Know About the NGSS – Simplified!

February 24, 2023 No Comments

Over the past few years, the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) have transformed science education. They have inspired teacher to build lessons that engage students in scientific practices. This has given students the opportunity to engage in scientific practices, explore real-world phenomena, and gain a deep understanding of the natural world. In this blog post. Then, we’ll discuss the standards. And, I’ll explain how to use them to create a more effective science curriculum. Whether you’re new to the NGSS or are seeking tips on better integrating them into your teaching, this post is for you.

If you are interested in developing your own 3D lesson plans, make sure to download my FREE template. Click here to learn more.

What are the NGSS?

The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) are a set of K-12 science standards based on the Framework for K-12 Science Education. They were developed to provide a consistent and clear framework for science education in the United States. A collaborative team of experts in science, education and policy developed the standards.

Text: The four parts of the Next Generation Science Standards - Science and Engineering Practices- Crosscutting Concepts- Disciplinary Core Ideas- Phenomena
Here are the four parts of the Next Generation Science Standards. Phenomena aren’t considered one of the 3 dimensions of the standards. But, they are an incredibly important component.

The NGSS shift the focus of science education from memorizing facts to engaging in scientific practices and applying knowledge to real-world problems. Specifically, the standards integrate three dimensions of science learning: Science and Engineering Practices, Crosscutting Concepts, and Disciplinary Core Ideas.

Let’s take a closer look at each of these dimensions.

Science and Engineering Practices

To investigate and solve problems, scientists and engineers use skills and processes known as Science and Engineering Practices. So, the NGSS defines eight practices that students should engage with:

  1. Asking questions (for science) and defining problems (for engineering)
  2. Developing and using models
  3. Planning and carrying out investigations
  4. Analyzing and interpreting data
  5. Using mathematics and computational thinking
  6. Constructing explanations (for science) and designing solutions (for engineering)
  7. Engaging in argument from evidence
  8. Obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information

By engaging in these practices, students can develop a deeper understanding of scientific concepts and how they apply to the real world.

To learn more about the Science and Engineering Practices, check out this blog post.

Crosscutting Concepts

Crosscutting Concepts connect different domains of science and provide a framework for understanding the natural world. The NGSS identifies seven crosscutting concepts:

  1. Patterns
  2. Cause and effect
  3. Scale, proportion, and quantity
  4. Systems and system models
  5. Energy and matter
  6. Structure and function
  7. Stability and change

Exploring these concepts across different scientific domains allows students to gain a more holistic understanding of the natural world.

To learn more about the Crosscutting Concepts, click here.

Disciplinary Core Ideas

To understand each scientific discipline, students must learn key concepts known as Disciplinary Core Ideas. The NGSS identifies four disciplinary core ideas:

  1. Physical Sciences
  2. Life Sciences
  3. Earth and Space Sciences
  4. Engineering, Technology, and Applications of Science

By studying these core ideas, students can develop a deep understanding of the fundamental concepts of each scientific discipline.


While not an official dimension of the NGSS, phenomena are an essential component of the standards. Phenomena are observable events or situations that can be used to engage students. By using phenomena, students can see the relevance of scientific concepts to their daily lives, spark curiosity, and develop a deeper understanding of the natural world.

In the next section of this blog post, we will take a closer look at each of these dimensions and provide examples of how to integrate them into your science curriculum.

To learn more about phenomena, click here.

Why are the NGSS Important?

The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) are important in science education because they provide a clear and coherent set of standards that integrate the practices of science and engineering, emphasize cross-cutting concepts, and prepare students for college and career readiness in STEM fields.

Through the NGSS, students learn critical thinking, problem-solving, and communication skills that are essential for success in 21st century careers in STEM fields, where collaboration and communication are necessary for working on interdisciplinary teams and communicating scientific findings. Furthermore, the NGSS integrate data analysis and technology, preparing students for the increasing use of data and technology in STEM fields.

The NGSS provide hands-on, inquiry-based learning experiences that simulate real-world problem-solving, preparing students for career readiness in STEM fields. Finally, these standards address real-world societal challenges, such as climate change and energy production. As a result, the NGSS strives to create active and engaged citizens who are prepared to address the pressing issues of our time.

Key Differences between the NGSS and Previous Standards

The NGSS represent a significant departure from previous science standards in the United States. Here are some of the key differences:

Removal of the Scientific Method

The scientific method, a structured approach to scientific inquiry that involves hypothesis testing, experimentation, and analysis, was a hallmark of many previous science standards. However, the NGSS do not specifically mention the scientific method. Instead, the standards emphasize the importance of Science and Engineering Practices, which focus on the skills and processes used by scientists and engineers to investigate and solve problems.

To learn why the scientific method is no longer considered best practice in science education, check out this post.

Isn’t this just inquiry-based science?

Inquiry-based science has been a goal of science education for many years. However, some teachers and students have found inquiry-based science to be too unstructured and open-ended. The NGSS solve this problem by providing more structured Science and Engineering Practices. Students are guided to engage in specific processes, such as asking questions, developing models, and analyzing data, to solve problems and investigate scientific phenomena.

Moving Away from Emphasis on Facts

Previous science standards often emphasized memorizing scientific facts and concepts. The NGSS move away from this approach and instead focus on deeper understanding and application of scientific ideas. The standards emphasize the importance of students developing a deep understanding of scientific concepts and the ability to apply them to real-world problems.

Text - Instructional Shifts for the next generation science standards - teacher leads to teacher facilitates - explanation first to exploration first- front loading to teaching skills in context- emphasis on facts to emphasis on scientific literacy

Use of Crosscutting Concepts to Make Larger Connections

The NGSS use Crosscutting Concepts, such as patterns, cause and effect, and systems and system models, to help students make connections between different scientific domains. By exploring these concepts across different scientific disciplines, students can gain a more holistic understanding of the natural world.

How to Implement the NGSS in the Classroom

Implementing the NGSS in your classroom can be a challenging but rewarding experience. Here are some tips and strategies for integrating the standards into your science curriculum:

Revisit Classroom Structures

One of the key features of the NGSS is a shift away from teacher-led lessons toward a student-centered approach. This means that students are more actively engaged in scientific practices and problem-solving. And, the teacher acts as a facilitator of learning. To achieve this, you may need to revisit your classroom structures. Consider ways to create more opportunities for students to explore scientific concepts and engage in inquiry-based learning.

Shift Toward an Explore Before Explain Approach

A key principle of the NGSS is that students should engage in scientific practices before being introduced to scientific concepts. This means that students should have the opportunity to explore phenomena and investigate scientific questions before being given explanations or lectures. This means students build their own understanding of scientific concepts and develop a deeper sense of ownership over their learning.

Text : 4 Steps: NGSS Implementation 1) revise classroom structures2) shift to explore before explain.3) start using the cccs and seps. 4) Build coherent storylines

Start Small with Crosscutting Concepts

To help ease the transition to NGSS, it is often helpful to start small and focus on one area at a time. I suggest starting with the Crosscutting Concepts as they provide a framework for making connections across different scientific domains. By exploring these concepts in your existing materials, you can begin to make small shifts in your instruction and build toward more significant changes.

Build Storylines

Once you are comfortable with the NGSS and have developed some experience with the Crosscutting Concepts, you can begin to build storylines. Storylines are a way of connecting the different dimensions of the NGSS to create a coherent and engaging science curriculum. Storylines can help students make connections between different scientific domains and see the relevance of science to their daily lives.

To learn more about storylines, click here.

The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) provide a framework for science education from kindergarten through 12th grade. They emphasize engaging in scientific practices and applying knowledge to real-world problems. To implement the NGSS in the classroom, I suggest revisiting classroom structures and shifting toward an explore before explain approach. Then, add in the CCCs, SEPs. Finally, begin building storylines. The NGSS provide a valuable framework for developing a deep understanding of scientific concepts and applying them to real-world problems, helping students become scientifically literate and engaged members of society.

Erin Sadler

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