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Next Generation Science Standards - Cross Cutting Concepts

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The Next Generation Science Standards - Cross-cutting concepts

For children to be successful in science, it is vital that they can clearly see how skills and knowledge learnt in one science lesson or topic can be applied in another. They need to see connections between the core ideas (physical sciences, life sciences, earth and space sciences, engineering technology and applications of science) in order to be able to form a coherent and scientifically-based view of the world.

In order to achieve this, the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) Framework includes seven cross-cutting concepts that can be used across all areas of science. In this post we will be looking at these seven concepts in more detail, why they are important and how they can be taught in the classroom.

The seven cross-cutting concepts are:

  1. Patterns: children learn that patterns exist in the natural and designed world related to time, rate and cycles, for example patterns in wavelength and amplitude. They also learn to sort and classify.
  2. Cause and effect - Mechanism and explanation: a major part of science is investigating and explaining causal relationships.
  3. Scale, proportion and quantity: children learn to measure, use units and understand scale.
  4. Systems and system models: Children see that using models provides tools for understanding and testing ideas.
  5. Energy and matter: matter, energy flows and cycles are fundamental aspects of science and engineering which children must understand in order to be scientifically literate.
  6. Structure and function: in both nature and the designed world, the structure of an object determines many of its properties and functions. For example, the shape of seeds are linked to different methods of seed dispersal.
  7. Stability and change: Children will learn that rates of change or evolution are critical elements of a system.

Why are they important?

The cross-cutting concepts provide students with important intellectual tools that are related across all the core ideas and so can help them better understand science and engineering practices and be confident in using scientific vocabulary. As such, the Framework recommends that they are embedded in the science curriculum beginning at kindergarten. It is stressed that they are not to be taught or assessed separately, but alongside the core ideas and practices.

In learning and applying the cross-cutting concepts, students will learn how scientists attempt to understand the fundamental aspects of nature and then be able to model these methods in their own learning. For example, one important cross-cutting concept is learning about how models are used. This can be applied to all areas of science and engineering. Also, the cross-concepts will provide them with the tools to work out what is happening if they come across unfamiliar phenomena.

Because these concepts will be used again and again in different topics and at different points in a child's education, they will become common and familiar. They should grow in complexity and sophistication across the grades: another example of where progression is a fundamental part of the Framework. As a student's cognitive abilities develop and the depth at which they tackle science concepts increases, the depth of understanding of the cross-cutting concepts should grow as well.

How can SciTT Kits help you teach them?

SciTT Kits are designed to engage children whilst they are learning important scientific skills and so most can be used to teach the cross-cutting concepts. To give you more of an idea how, let's take a closer look at two of the cross-cutting concepts for K-2 and 3-5 and suggest SciTT Kits that could be used with your students to help them develop these skills.

1. Patterns.

2. Cause and effect: Mechanism and explanation.

This is just a sample of the way the many and varied SciTT Kits can be used with K-5 and older students to help them understand the cross-cutting concepts. For more ideas, please take a look at our product pages. 

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