Science in Three Dimensions

One of my goals when I started teaching was to create an inquiry-based science classroom for my students. To do that I used hands on science activities through which students could develop knowledge and understanding of scientific ideas, as well as an understanding of how scientists studied the natural world. Much of the time, I used AIMS tasks to do that. Each activity asks students a focus question and invites them to find ways to explore science for themselves. AIMS tasks are great hands-on learning experiences that are content-rich, conceptually-based, and relevant in contemporary classrooms. They help science teachers successfully create a three-dimensional science classroom.

Perhaps you have heard about the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), which has a similar goal of having teachers create three-dimensional classrooms. The three dimensions that the NGSS incorporates are the Disciplinary Core Ideas (DCI), Crosscutting Concepts (CCC), and Science and Engineering Practices (SEP). The DCIs are the fundamental ideas necessary for understanding a given science discipline. These ideas all have broad importance within or across the science or engineering disciplines, and provide a key tool for understanding or investigating complex ideas and solving problems. These ideas also  relate to societal or personal concerns, and can be taught over multiple grade levels and at progressive levels of depth and complexity. CCCs are concepts that hold true across the natural and engineered world. Students can use these concepts to make connections across seemingly disparate disciplines or situations, connect new learning to prior experiences, and more deeply engage with material across the other dimensions. The NGSS requires that students explicitly use their understanding of the CCCs to make sense of phenomena or solve problems by utilizing the SEPs. They are both a set of skills and a set of knowledge to be internalized. The SEPs reflect the major practices that scientists and engineers use to investigate the world and design and build systems.

Engaging students in the three dimensions of the NGSS allows them to learn science by directly engaging in the practices that scientists and engineers do, such as planning and carrying out investigations that help them to learn and deepen their understanding of science knowledge.  This includes making connections within and across science domains and progressing through key science ideas that can be used to make sense of the world and solve problems. Students do this by developing, using, and integrating knowledge and practice across the three dimensions of science.

The NGSS may be a new way of thinking about teaching science. I’m excited about these standards, and happy to know that I can rely on AIMS resources to help. What makes you excited about the NGSS and what kinds of resources will help you to teach it in your classrooms?

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