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The NGSS Approach IS the Seeds of Science/Roots of Reading Approach!

- contributed by Jacqueline Barber, Director of The Learning Design Group and Associate Director of the Lawrence Hall of Science

Recently I was asked to describe how Seeds of Science/Roots of Reading® aligns to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).

My response: The NGSS approach IS the Seeds of Science/Roots of Reading approach!

How so? Both Seeds/Roots and the NGSS require that students inhabit the role of a scientist (BE) as they use science practices (DO) to come to understand about the natural and designed worlds (KNOW)—and that students' opportunities to engage with Science and Engineering Practices, Cross-cutting Concepts, and Disciplinary Core Ideas are inextricably entwined.

Here are several of many examples from Seeds/Roots units that embody this BE-DO-KNOW approach:

The NGSS Grade 5: Performance Expectation 5-PS1-1
Develop a model to describe that matter is made of particles too small to be seen.

In the Seeds/Roots unit, Models of Matter, students gather evidence from a series of firsthand experiences and weekly "matter mysteries." They evaluate and compare models to help explain the mysteries, and then make their own revised models. They read the book, Science You Can't See and discuss why scientists must make inferences. Students write evidence-based explanations to communicate their ideas of what is happening in the "matter mysteries."

The NGSS Grade 4: Performance Expectation 4-PS3-2
Make observations to provide evidence that energy can be transferred from place to place by sound, light, heat, and electric currents.

In the Seeds/Roots unit, Light Energy, students tackle "solar energy puzzles" in which they are challenged to figure out how solar energy and energy transformations are involved and to draw diagrams showing the energy transformation chains. They then create their own "solar energy puzzles" and generate a claim, review multiple sources to gather evidence, and prepare scientific explanations on the ways solar energy can be transformed into every other form of energy. They read the book, Sunlight and Showers to learn how one team of scientists, Ashok Gadgil and his students, designed solar water heaters for showers in Guatemala.

The NGSS Grade 3: Performance Expectation 3-LS4-2
Use evidence to construct an explanation for how the variations in characteristics among individuals of the same species may provide advantages in surviving, finding mates, and reproducing.

In the Seeds/Roots unit, Variation and Adaptation, using animal cards, video clips of animal movement, audio clips of bird calls, posters, and a book called Blue Whales and Buttercups, students gather evidence to construct a growing understanding of variation and relatedness among living things. Turning to the question "Why do living things have some of the same characteristics as their parents?" students learn about heredity as they make observations of fruit fly drawings, read a book called The Code, and discuss whether specific characteristics are inherited or acquired. Students make comparisons of a fox and a wolf, and of two girls who are identical twins. Finally, they work together to explain whether a tiger is more closely related to a dolphin or a shark by making a claim, gathering supporting evidence, and revising the claim as necessary to account for new evidence.

The NGSS Grade 2: Performance Expectation 2-PS1-2
Analyze data obtained from testing different materials to determine which materials have the properties that are best suited for an intended purpose.*

In the Seeds/Roots unit, Designing Mixtures, students read the book, Why Aren't Rain Boots Made of Paper? and learn that every material has different properties, and that these properties make certain materials good for some uses and not so good for others. Then they are challenged to make an ideal glue mixture. First they conduct "sticky tests" on potential glue ingredients and analyze the data to determine the sticky properties of each ingredient. Then they conduct "strength tests" on the glue ingredients to see which glue ingredients will hold the greatest amount of weight. They analyze the data to inform their choice of glue ingredients that will lead to a strong glue. Finally, students make and test their own glue mixtures. In this unit, students reflect on the cross cutting concept of cause and effect.

While the Seeds/Roots approach is "spot on" with that envisioned in the NGSS, like all curriculum programs, we are working to create new units and modify some of the existing units in order to be able to address all of the NGSS' Disciplinary Core Ideas, at the right grade levels, and in an efficient and integrated way. Be skeptical of any curriculum program that already claims to do so!

In the meantime:

If you haven't yet used a Seeds/Roots unit and want to begin to shift your instruction to reflect that envisioned by the NGSS, let us steer you to those existing Seeds/Roots units that are best aligned to the NGSS' Disciplinary Ideas. Just drop an email to Traci Wierman, Director of the Learning Design Group's Curriculum Implementation efforts and she will be happy to discuss with you.

Stay tuned for the next several Community posts that will discuss what it means to address Science and Engineering Practices and Cross-Cutting Concepts, as well as seeing how you can use Seeds/Roots units to provide your students with Engineering and Design experiences.


National Research Council, A Framework for K-12 Science Education: Practices,
Crosscutting Concepts, and Core Ideas. National Academies Press. 2012.

Achieve, Inc. Next Generation Science Standards for Today's Students and Tomorrow's Workforce. 2013.

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