At Kid Spark Education, we help schools and educational service providers disrupt the pattern of educational inequity by providing STEM kits and programming early and consistently for elementary school students. To bridge the opportunity gap for STEM learning, we align our curriculum with standards designed to help teach a love of STEM. One way we do that is by infusing the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) into our elementary and middle school curriculum. These standards are made up of three parts:
- Scientific and Engineering Practices- Teaches students how scientists investigate the natural world and how engineers design and build systems
- Crosscutting Concepts- Helps students explore connections and see the “cause and effect” across the four domains of science
- Disciplinary Core Ideas- Aids students in understanding the key ideas in science that have broad importance within or across multiple science or engineering disciplines
All three of these aspects of NGSS work together to help students get a deeper understanding of science and other STEM principles as they progress through every progressive lesson with Kid Spark Education. Using these standards provides a whole host of benefits for students and prepares them for brighter futures. As a report by WestEd finds,
“Over 90 percent of surveyed teachers and administrators reported that the NGSS’s student-driven, phenomena-based instructional model was having a positive effect on low-performing students’ learning, and one-third of surveyed teachers and administrators (36 and 34 percent, respectively) perceived a “substantial'' change compared to pre-NGSS instruction”.
Working with elementary school and middle school students alike, we’ve seen how using these standards can truly help students grow. With this experience with NGSS in our curriculum, we wanted to put together this quick guide on the NGSS standards and how they operate within our programs. Read the full guide below to see how our STEM kits support STEM!
Scientific & Engineering Practices
One of the key parts of NGSS is a focus on Scientific and Engineering practices. Combined with technology and mathematics in our STEM program, Kid Spark learners are able to use lessons from the STEM kits to learn what scientists do to investigate the natural world and what engineers do to design and build systems. NGSS and our program uses several key strategies to do this:
- Asking Questions and Defining Problems- In our STEM kits, we focus on engineering challenges, which allows students to question how the world works and how they might contribute to improve it. Throughout our elementary school and middle school programs, students learn to define problems and develop creative solutions of their own design.
- Developing and Using Models- At Kid Spark Education, we believe that every student can see like a designer and learn to think like an engineer. An important component of our program’s progression is for students to visualize design solutions and then create physical models that can be continually improved.
- Planning and Carrying Out Investigations- Through our STEM kits and lessons, students are challenged to brainstorm ideas, develop prototypes, and carry out investigations on designs as they develop solutions to problems.
- Using Mathematics- Because all engineering materials are designed in metric units of measurement, students get opportunities for integrating mathematics in lessons and projects.
Through each of these aspects of our curriculum, students can gain both STEM identities and STEM fluencies. By learning to see themselves as designers and engineers, students have the confidence to learn STEM and author with technology. With each progressive lesson, this focus on science and engineering will build a love of STEM that lasts their whole lives.
Cross Cutting Practices
At Kid Spark Education, we believe that STEM should teach how each of the disciplines feed into each other. NGSS also supports that with cross cutting practices. In the Cross Cutting part of the standards, students explore connections across the four domains of science. Kid Spark Education encourages students to apply the following cross cutting concepts through the study of engineering:
- Patterns- Students learn basic pattern recognition through classification as they build, test, and analyze different models. For example, with our STEM kits, students organize and classify engineering materials based upon their characteristics or function.
- Structure and Function- Students explore how different engineering materials can be used in a design. For example, in our early STEM curriculum, students learn how to make things strong or make things move.. This encourages students to understand the relationship between the structure and function of each component, as well as how each can be used in developing more complex designs or systems.
- Scale, Proportion, and Quantity- Kid Spark Education programming introduces students to dimension, scale, quantity, and measurement. Kid Spark projects are often scale models of large, easily relatable, real-world structures. The metric grid inherent in our STEM kits is particularly supportive of incorporating mathematics into any lesson.
- Cause and Effect; Mechanism and Explanation- Through our STEM kits, elementary and middle school students learn to analyze how and why things work, where they are used in the real world, and how they might be improved or used to create something new.
By focusing on the different disciplines of science, while integrating engineering, math, and technology, our STEM kits help students make deep connections about STEM concepts with the world they live in. By making STEM learning more relatable and more understandable, more students can have the confidence and desire to grow in the STEM field.
Disciplinary Core Ideas
The final aspect of NGSS, Disciplinary Core Ideas, are the key ideas in science that have broad importance within or across multiple science or engineering disciplines. These core ideas build on each other as students progress through grade levels and are grouped into the following four domains: physical science, life science, earth and space science, and engineering. Through our STEM kits, our curriculum focuses on both engineering design and physical science.
Early in our programming, students learn the structure and function of different engineering materials. As students progress, they explore basic engineering concepts such as how to make things strong, how to make things move, how to measure, and how to develop creative solutions to challenges. In addition, as they progress, students explore concepts such as pushes and pulls, gravity, motion, and stability. As they progress into late elementary school and middle school, students take these foundational fluencies and use it to author with technology and create more complex engineering solutions.
By learning these core ideas, students become “STEM fluent”— they learn to think critically, solve creatively, and engage fearlessly with the world around them. By providing tools to support STEM education, from toddler to teen to teacher, Kid Spark Education program helps kids develop the courage to imagine a better world and the skills to create it.
Want to Learn More About Our Elementary School STEM Kits?
Of course, this was just an overview of how our elementary and middle school STEM kits support NGSS standards, as well as the benefits they provide. If you’d like to talk to us further about STEM programs at your school, we’d be happy to talk to you further!
To learn more about our programs, take a look at each program level and explore the different lesson plans included in each starting at Pre-K - 1st Grade, 2nd - 5th Grade, and our 6th - 8th Grade Program.
You’ll find programs that help students build the necessary foundational fluencies and develop them each year: starting with basic spatial reasoning, and ending with advanced coding and robotics.
For more information on bringing STEM labs to your elementary school, contact us today!