How to use the NGSS


The NGSS were designed to be used in a certain way. This is not to say that the standards are a script to follow when teaching but to be used effectively and in the ideals of the designers, teachers should follow the guidelines below.



First off the NGSS is not a checklist of items to hit. It is a comprehensive picture of the knowledge students should have. This means each dimension of the framework is included in many lessons cooperatively and not covered only once during the year.


The content progressions "briefly describe the content at each grade band for each disciplinary core idea across K-12. This progression is for reference only. The full progressions can be seen in the Framework" (Click here for the Progressions).

The Prgressions are divided into 3 content areas (Life Science, Earth Space Science, and Physical Science). Each content area has major themes and concepts students should understand in each grade bracket. These major themes can be thought of as end goals of learning cycles.


In addition to the content specific progressions, there are the other two dimensions of the NGSS that need to be met by the students. Again, these are the Science and Engineering Practices and the Crosscutting Concepts. The Science and Engineering Practices are skills found throughout all areas of science but must "be made explicit for students" and engage them in these skills.  The Crosscutting Concepts are major ideas/themes that are found across the sciences.


The Science and Engineering Practices are listed below. These practices should be included in almost every content progression and should be emphasized so students will understand why they are important.

1. Asking questions (for science) and defining problems (for engineering)

2. Developing and using models

3. Planning and carrying out investigations

4. Analyzing and interpreting data

5. Using mathematics and computational thinking

6. Constructing explanations (for science) and designing solutions (for engineering)

7. Engaging in argument from evidence

8. Obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information

See Science and Engineering Practices on the left for more information.


The Crosssutting Concepts "have application across all domains of science. As such, they are a way of linking the different domains of science." The Crosscutting Concepts are listed below. As with the Science and Engineering Practices, these Concepts need to be included in almost every lesson.

1. Patterns. Observed patterns of forms and events guide organization and classification, and they prompt questions about relationships and the factors that influence them.

2. Cause and effect: Mechanism and explanation. Events have causes, sometimes simple, sometimes multifaceted. A major activity of science is investigating and explaining causal relationships and the mechanisms by which they are mediated. Such mechanisms can then be tested across given contexts and used to predict and explain events in new contexts.

3. Scale, proportion, and quantity. In considering phenomena, it is critical to recognize what is relevant at different measures of size, time, and energy and to recognize how changes in scale, proportion, or quantity affect a system’s structure or performance.

4. Systems and system models. Defining the system under study—specifying its boundaries and making explicit a model of that system—provides tools for understanding and testing ideas that are applicable throughout science and engineering.

5. Energy and matter: Flows, cycles, and conservation. Tracking fluxes of energy and matter into, out of, and within systems helps one understand the systems’ possibilities and limitations.

6. Structure and function. The way in which an object or living thing is shaped and its substructure determine many of its properties and functions.

7. Stability and change. For natural and built systems alike, conditions of stability and determinants of rates of change or evolution of a system are critical elements of study.