The first set of Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) was developed and released in April of 2013 as an effort to help equip high school students enter into math and technology rich programs in college. The goal of NGSS is to foster scientific learning while aiding students in understanding the process of scientific examination. Several states have adopted these standards (along with Common Core State Standards), although there is no national mandate for incorporating the benchmarks into the classroom. NGSS was derived from the original “Framework K-12 Science Education” created by the National Research Council.
Within NGSS, there are three unique dimensions that embody the process of learning science – practices, core ideas, and crosscutting. The first area is practices, which include the description of behaviors that scientists engage in when designing various models and systems. Understanding these practices requires a combination of both skills and knowledge that rely on inquiry-based reasoning. The disciplinary core ideas include the notion of presenting key organizing concepts that have broad importance across multiple science and engineering disciplines, providing key tools to understanding and investigating complex problems, relating to the interests and life experiences of students that are connected to societal or personal concerns, and can be taught and learned across multiple levels with varying degrees of depth and sophistication. Crosscutting concepts apply to multiple domains of science and provide a pathway for linking them. They range from patterns, similarity, and diversity to cause and effect, energy and matter, structure and function, and stability and change. The inclusion of these concepts is based on the idea that students can better organize information and interrelate knowledge across the scientific fields (Three Dimensional Learning).
The aspect unique to NGSS is that it explicitly connects engineering standards; engineering is a unique field of science that is constantly evolving and engenders serious levels of cognitive demand. Students engaged in engineering thinking are naturally better problem solvers as they can oftentimes develop multiple answers to solve any given problem. The Discover Robotics and Physics set offered by PCS is a great way to plug students into engineering while aligning their learning to NGSS. Concepts reviewed in this set include air pressure, gravity, impulse, and torque (among others).
Although it is valuable that engineering is embedded into NGSS, biology and other life sciences are equally rewarding and are thankfully included in the standards as well. For these instances, PCS offers Oceanic Exploration Camp and BrickLAB Zoo, all products and services that have carefully aligned activities to the framework in order to ensure maximum learnedness. While NGSS has only recently released its bundles, PCS has already taken the time to commit resources to developing coherent, cohesive units that will allow teachers to more easily review concepts. This new bundling effort will allow students to see connections between ideas while creating more valuable instruction time in the classroom, which is sure to spark the minds of the next wave of innovation.
Three Dimensional Learning. N.d. Retrieved July 6, 2016 from http://www.nextgenscience.org/three-dimensions