Deciding what science topics to cover in a school year can feel overwhelming. But, with the right tools and mindset, the task can be enjoyable and chillax’ing. We designed the following steps to help you plan science instruction for the whole year.
Step 1: Familiarize Yourself with NGSS
In order to plan science activities for a whole year, we need to know what concepts children should learn. This part of our planning has been done and vetted by experts in the field of science education. That is, the United States has created a document with the minimum expectations for teaching and learning in K-12 grades. These standards are entitled, The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).
In general, the current science education standards are grouped into three distinct groups about teaching and learning. The first category is practices. In this set of standards, the overarching goal is for children to understand how scientists and engineers go about investigating phenomena and problems.
There are eight practices are:
- Asking questions (for science) and defining problems (for engineering)
- Developing and using models
- Planning and carrying out investigations
- Analyzing and interpreting data
- Using mathematics and computational thinking
- Constructing explanations (for science) and designing solutions (for engineering)
- Engaging in argument from evidence
- Obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information
The second category is, disciplinary core ideas. These are the minimum scientific ideas children should master in each of the following disciplines:
- Physical sciences
- Life sciences
- Earth and space sciences
- Engineering, technology, and application of science
In each discipline, the standards gives list of concepts/ideas children should be able to explain using age appropriate sources of evidence.
The third category is, crosscutting concepts. These are the standards that guide instruction to help learners notice patterns and concepts/ideas across multiple disciplines. In other words, this category is the thread that joins practices and disciplinary core ideas.
Step 2: Read our Grade specific Content Overviews
Once you are familiar with NGSS visit our posts for the grade(s) you need to plan. Each of these blog posts will give you a thematic overview of what children need to learn-based on the NGSS. Download the units overview for the whole year.
Step 3: Get a Calendar
Once you download the grade theme/unit overviews, find a calendar and evenly divide the school year by the number of themes/units recommended for the grade. We strongly encourage you to check with your state to make sure you follow the appropriate science teaching regulations for homeschooling or a specific school.
Step 4: Accept Imperfection
Some readers may argue with me that the year-long plans are incomplete, inconsistent with NGSS, and who knows what other critiques we might get. However, at the end of the day, as a teacher or parent we have to make decisions in order to make progress. So, be clear in what you are willing to do and not do. Accept imperfection.
Step 5: Find Specific Resources
Now that you have a focus by grade and themes, you can find appropriate physical and electronic resources without wasting time. Make sure you review best practices for search keywords and you are likely to find great science and engineering resources that are relevant. Here is a list of some of our favorite electronic sources for creating science and engineering activities.
- National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)
- National Geographic for Teachers
- Picture Perfect Science
- National Science Teaching Association
Step 6: Be Chillax
Teaching is never perfect. So, Chillax and start doing Science. Enjoy the process and let us know how it goes!