Category Archives: Next Generation Science Standards

Transitioning from State Content Standards to the NGSS

While many science teachers have already embarked on the journey of “how to deal with the NGSS (Next Generation Science Standards)”, others are just starting to wrap their minds around the shift or are perhaps in a state that has not yet adopted the standards. Wherever you are in your journey, I think it wise to focus on the process, where it takes your teaching, and to begin small. I myself have just finished the second year of a continuing process of understanding the NGSS, what they mean, how they are organized, and what it looks like in my classroom and in my own teaching. With lots of patience, collaboration, and professional developments, it can be done!

Two years ago, my science department and I started by working on two things:

  1. Identifying which lessons, labs, and activities already achieved the NGSS
  2. Developing a new way of teaching the scientific method.

I mention the second step because it was important for us to all be on the same page about what we were teaching as the process of science, and to establish a common language amongst students throughout each grade level (especially since I worked at a 6-12th grade school). This is especially important since secondary science education does not always necessarily progress in the same way as a math class.

Science Cycle (1)Developing a new way of teaching the scientific method

After much debate and discussion, we eventually developed our own science cycle where we identified 10 terms, such as “question”, “model”, “design”, and “justify”, put them in a context (such as “identify limitations”), and produced posters and handouts for all students. We even had several heated debates on where to place the terms within the cycle. Having this done, however, helped tremendously when we began to shift our perspective on how this was all going to look in our classroom. Any time the students did an activity or lab, we referred them back to the science cycle to help them identify how they were doing science. This also helped us to further align with the science and engineering practices of the NGSS.

Identifying which lessons, labs, and activities already achieved the NGSS

Okay, now back to the first step. If you are just starting out with the NGSS, see what you are already doing at the beginning of each unit, because I am willing to bet that you are doing more than you think. Align the NGSS with your state content standards by looking for common language. Then, take out your post-its! I stuck them all over my hard copies to help me remember how each activity aligned for the following year. Then, repeat the above steps until you have gone through all units. This process will help you get more familiar with the language of the NGSS and how it relates to your classroom.

Now, you might be thinking, “I cannot even read these things to understand where my activities align!” You wouldn’t be alone. I was fortunate enough to attend an NGSS rollout session in California that was worth the time and money to figure out just a few little things that I do not think that I would have noticed.  For example, the letters and numbers separated by dashes at the top of each subset of standards are the performance expectations (what students should be able to do), but letters and numbers separated by periods in orange are the corresponding disciplinary core ideas, or the content standards (the “what” we are supposed to teach). Understanding these little nuances is a tremendous help and will continue to be as assessments are developed. I find this page to be the most helpful for understanding how the standards are organized (I am a visual learner):

Learn from my experience

While I could go on and on about the standards, I want to mention one final thing to keep in mind while you roll out this process in your schools and classrooms: teaching inquiry is not for the faint of heart. One thing that my colleagues and I learned this year is that you will now have TIME to teach science in the way that it should be taught. Not through a list of facts, lectures, and textbook notes, but through hands-on, thought-provoking, real-world problems. You will need to let go of the expectation that you will be keeping on pace with how you have taught in the past, because you won’t. Teaching through inquiry and through the use of the NGSS takes much, much longer. But the amount of learning that takes place, exciting discoveries, and in-depth discussions that your students will experience is so much more valuable. So, be patient. Let go of your internal timelines, and make goals that focus on how the students can have a meaningful experience in your classroom that they will never forget.

If you are reading this and thinking that you do not have the luxury to take the time at your own school to implement NGSS, work towards this goal by becoming a voice in your department. It took me three years to get my department on board with getting rid of teaching a linear scientific method that was outdated and unrealistic. Take some risks and show your school and administrators data that teaching in this way really works.

Picture of Shannon Baird

Shannon Baird has been teaching 7th grade life science and high school biology for the past five years in San Diego, CA. She recently moved to Tucson, AZ to teach biology and earth science in high school. Throughout her career, Shannon has focused on primarily using inquiry-based strategies in her classroom. Shannon was a 2014-2015 APS Frontiers in Physiology Research Teacher Fellow and is a LifeSciTRC Community Member.

Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS): An Overview

The Next Generation Science Standards is currently a hot topic in K-12 education with a number of states who are debating adopting or have already done so. This month the LifeSciTRC invited Community Member Georgia Everett, who is a high school and undergraduate educator with hands-on NGSS experience, to explain these standards to our K-12 Educator Community.

 What are the Next Generation Science Standards? 

The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) are built off of the Framework for K-12 Science Education which was developed by the National Research Council.  The standards progress students on topics in Life Science, Earth Science, Physical Science and Engineering & Technology throughout elementary, middle and high school.  They involve 7 conceptual shifts that include making connections to real world and preparing students for college, career, and citizenship while also making connections to Common Core State Standards in Math and ELA. They focus on a progression of learning while putting a spotlight on the science practices that have fallen by the wayside over the years.

What are the Goals of the Next Generation Science Standards?

A major goal of the NGSS is to approach science learning from three dimensions; Disciplinary Core Ideas (focused on life science, physical science, earth & space science, and engineering & technology), Science & Engineering Practices, and Crosscutting Concepts (focuses on things that can be seen across all disciplines not just science as well as across grade bands).  By effectively using these three dimensions, students work towards mastery of performance expectations which are the standards.  Each performance expectation includes clarification as well as assessment boundaries to keep consistency when interpreting what is and is not being inferred in the standard.

 Who is Using the Next Generation Science Standards?

Twelve states have already agreed to adopt the NGSS, and are planning on slowly working towards incorporating the standards into their state curriculum.  (It is important that I note: NGSS are not curriculum. They are the final goal and outcome, but do not tell how to get there.) Achieve has encouraged states to take their time when deciding if and when to adopt.  They do not want to see the same issues that were faced with the Common Core State Standards when they were released. They also want to have teachers, administrators, and state leaders to be educated on how to properly work with and use the NGSS.

Where Can I Find More Information about the Next Generation Science Standards?

If you would like to find out more about how to read and get familiar with the NGSS there are a variety of tools out there. The Concord Consortium has a website that helps teachers create a path through NGSS (by jesse).  For you apple users, there is an NGSS app that allows you to search the standards using the Disciplinary Core Ideas, Topics, Concept Progression, or Domains. You can also find other resources related to NGSS in the LifeSciTRC.

Any Additional Thoughts on the Next Generation Science Standards?

With the amount of time and effort that teachers across the nation (including myself) have put into reading, revising, and working on resources for NGSS, I hope that they are a huge success! When properly utilized the Next Generation Science Standards can help us strengthen the education of all our future scientists, especially the next generation of physiologists.






Georgia Everett has taught various levels of life science classes in Indiana rural schools for the last 12 years at the secondary level. For the last 8 years, she has also been an adjunct faculty member with Ivy Tech Community college teaching Anatomy & Physiology.  Georgia has served on a review team for the Next Generation Science Standards and helped deliver professional development to other teachers about the NGSS. She has also presented at NSTA about teaching inquiry and statistical analysis in the science classroom.

A New Year and New Science Education?

Happy New Year from the Archive of Teaching Resources!students desk

As a new calendar year starts, I like to sit and reflect on the happenings over the past year and begin planning for the future. One benefit of serving as the Archive Manager is that I have the opportunity to think about and see examples of science education from the kindergarten to graduate level. This year has brought some BIG SHIFTS in science education and the standards that are recommended to be used in education.

This year, the Next Generation Science Standards were released for K-12 education and Vision and Change in Science Education continues to spread throughout undergraduate education. What makes me happy to see is that both of these documents focus on making science student-centered, integrative, and concept-centered. As a scientist myself, I am pleased to know that there is such a large push for the next generation of students to experience all aspects of science and learn how it applies to their lives. However, what makes me even more happy is to look back over the resources that have been submitted by YOU, the Archive Users, and to see that you are already making science interactive, integrative, and applicable for the next generation of students.

I tip my hat to each and every one of you for your foresight and vision for science education. I believe the next step is to share your experience and wisdom with other educators so we can continue to improve science education for all students. I hope that over the coming year we can work together to spread the “new” wave of science education. Please continue to share your resources, thoughts, and expertise with the Archive community and consider sharing this community with others. My New Year’s Resolution is to continue reaching out to and supporting teachers like you.

What is your New Year’s Resolution? Comment Below.