Cooking with NGSS


By Robert Marshall

Despite only 13 states and the District of Columbia having formally adopted the new Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), many school districts in non-acting states are not waiting on their governments. We are hearing more and more reports from teachers in Florida, Pennsylvania and Wyoming that their schools have adopted NGSS in some format despite few (and sometimes abandoned) legislation discussion.

Considering all of this, at Fisher Science Education, we thought it would be a good exercise to task ourselves with an assignment more and more science teachers across America are being asked to complete: rewrite an existing lab activity following the NGSS formula. How did we do it and what can we share? Read on to find out and then follow the web link to reference and use our developed lab in your classroom!

Foundation to Framework

It was not too long ago our professional development team implemented a middle school chemistry workshop utilizing ordinary classroom lab equipment and the smallest form of United States currency: the penny. The first portion of the experiment is to clean an old copper Lincoln by creating an everyday cleaning solution using Sodium Chloride (table salt) and Acetic Acid (vinegar). The second portion is to electroplate Zinc onto the copper followed by adding heat to then create a brass metal alloy. Science concepts covered include exothermic versus endothermic reactions, pH, matter, energy and chemical change.

In order to marry this with NGSS we first have to take a step back and consider the new standard’s framework.

There are three specific areas, or dimensions:

  1. Science and Engineering Practices teach both knowledge and skill sets that aid in scientific literacy. These two fields of study, science and engineering, have similar problem solving processes that can be tackled the same way and are often taught together. Expanded beyond the scientific method, these practices can be interpreted as a kind of cooking recipe – starting with use of inquiry and ending with your students being able to communicate ideas. There are eight practices in total and these laid the groundwork for the flow of our lab write-up. As you read it, you will notice we were able to incorporate several, such as analyze and interpret data.
  2. Disciplinary Core Ideas are the main ingredients to our science meal. This is where we get our content which covers engineering, technology, physical, life, earth & space and application of science. There are 44 ideas in total, but after visiting, highlighting the middle school grade level, highlighting chemical reactions under physical science and then clicking search we narrowed it to two core ideas: structure/properties of matter and chemical reactions. Together both make up MS-PS1-1 through MS-PS1-6 performance expectations.
    Knowing our experiment contains chemical reactions (or at least appears to) we reviewed MS-PS1-2 further and it is present in our lab rewrite. 
  3. Cross Cutting Concepts are ‘bridges’ that link across multiple core ideas. In our cooking analogy these can be thought of as spices which enhance flavor. In this dimension we might be able to link multiple core ideas. For instance, you could teach scale, proportion and quantity during introduction to cells just the same when covering the scope of the universe. There are seven concepts in total which typically link together multiple lab activities over the period of several weeks. Since we are only redrafting one lab here, we have suggested possible extensions given those listed via NGSS: patterns and energy/matter.

From Recipe to the Lab

As you are brainstorming how to reformat your own labs to NGSS consider you are not alone. We understand your commitment to science education and know your time is valuable. Our expert educators on staff would like to offer real assistance. How can we partner with you and your school to help rewrite your science labs? Call your Fisher Science Education representative today!

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