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Phenomena and the NGSS

The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) are all about increasing student engagement by having students think and act like scientists. That means switching from labs where students already know all of the answers, to asking more open-ended questions that have multiple answers or explanations. If you are a science teacher reading this, then you might be thinking, “How in the world am I supposed to come up with activities and labs that have multiple correct answers and/or explanations?” Luckily, there are a few resources that you can use to engage your students in complicated and rigorous open-ended questions.

The first of these resources is purely for elementary school teachers and it is called Mystery Science. Mystery science has “pre-made” lesson, activities, and extensions for K-5 science teachers. The way each lesson starts is with an essential question that gives your students an opportunity to share their background knowledge about the topic. Afterward, students explore different aspects of the essential question and many of them are relatively open-ended. Some examples of essential questions that you students will be exploring are:

  • Kindergarten: What will the weather be like on your birthday?
  • 1st Grade: Why do birds have beaks?
  • 2nd Grade: How did a tree travel halfway around the world?
  • 3rd Grade: Why do plants give us fruit?
  • 4th Grade: Why do some volcanoes explode?
  • 5th Grade: What would happen if you drank a glass of acid?

Look at the variety in the open-ended questions above. Almost none of them have a simple answer, but require students to research and “find” the answers with guidance from the teacher.

The second resource is for all teachers, but specifically for middle and high school teachers and it is called Phenomena for NGSS. Just take a look at a couple of these interesting ways to introduce science concepts to your students.

Unlike Mystery Science, few of these phenomena have associated activities and explanations, but this website is meant as a way for teachers to submit and find phenomena for their science classrooms. As NGSS becomes the norm, I would assume the website will become much more useable and friendly.

I also have some chemistry and physical science demonstration that I perform in class, which can be found on Youtube here: My Demonstration Playlist. Even though this list is not extensive, hopefully, you found this information helpful and useful.

As usual, happy hunting!

About the author

Chris Saucedo (Mr. Saucedo)

Chris Saucedo (Mr. Saucedo)

Hello! I have been teaching science (chemistry, biology, physical science, AVID 9, and ELD science) at Arcadia high school for the past four years! My professional interests include: integrating inquiry and NGSS standards into science lessons. My personal interests include: video games, cooking, reading, and running.