There are plenty of resources out there about preparing to make the shift to the NGSS. It’s one thing to understand these changes in principle; it’s another thing to implement a different approach to science teaching and learning in the classroom. 

The NGSS framework suggests that a phenomena-based, three-dimensional approach will better prepare students for advanced science classes and life outside of school. Amplify Science, then, needed to be designed differently to help you engage your students in more rigorous experiences that mirror how scientists and engineers actually work in the real world. 

Here are five questions you may have as you begin asking your students to figure out science phenomena and to read, write, and think like scientists and engineers with Amplify Science:


Can I teach lessons in any order?

The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) call for students to figure out real world phenomena. Rather than covering a list of topics like a traditional textbook might, Amplify Science anchors science instruction in phenomena-driven storylines that allow students to inhabit the role of a scientist or engineer in order to figure out scientific phenomena, which are observable events that occur in the universe and that we can use our science knowledge to explain or predict.

What does this look like in an Amplify Science classroom?

The Amplify Science unit storylines provide relevant, 21st-century contexts through which students investigate a variety of scientific phenomena. This approach necessitates a design in which lessons build on one another.

These storylines provide students with relevant problems to solve which motivate them to gather evidence from different sources such as hands-on investigations, digital simulations and modeling tools, and complex scientific texts. By balancing exposure to carefully sequenced and multiple modalities of learning, students are able to acquire deep understanding of the unit’s key scientific phenomena. While teachers are encouraged to incorporate some of their favorite lessons and experiences, skipping lessons where students gather and make sense of key evidence or changing the order of instruction will ultimately impact students’ ability to figure out phenomena.


Where is the textbook?

As you look through Amplify Science, you might be wondering “When are kids being told the right answers?” Amplify Science is designed to help students actively construct understanding — it is not about delivering or front loading content. If you are accustomed to a text-dominant approach to teaching and learning, this may feel different. 

The NGSS call for students to be able to figure out how and why things happen as they do, rather than merely expecting students to describe science phenomena or recall isolated facts. While students in Amplify Science classrooms do read informational texts in order to gather evidence, they also engage in authentic practices used by scientists and engineers — they perform investigations, use digital simulations, create models, ask questions, analyze data, and engage in scientific argumentation. Amplify Science gives kids the opportunity to figure out how the natural world works, in the ways that scientists do.

What does this look like in an Amplify Science classroom?

Amplify Science shifts the focus from learning about a topic to figuring out why or how something happens. Within each unit of Amplify Science, students accomplish this not just by reading, but through writing activities, discussions, modeling, and hands-on investigations to craft, refine, and defend scientific arguments. 

When students do read, they are reading for a specific purpose, and searching for evidence to help them figure out solutions to problems and how the natural world works. This happens in the form of age-appropriate Student Books in grades K–5 and in the form of science articles in grades 6–8. Both formats allow students to engage with content-rich text, obtain evidence, develop research and close reading skills, and construct arguments and explanations about the ideas they are learning in class.


Where are the labs? 

If you are new to Amplify Science and accustomed to a hands-on dominant curriculum, you’ll likely notice more of a balance between hands-on activities and other evidence collection activities. The NGSS science and engineering practices include some that are familiar and comfortable for teachers accustomed to using hands-on dominant programs, such as developing and using models and planning and carrying out investigations. However these practices represent just two of the eight science and engineering practices that, according to the NGSS, are important for students to use as they work to make sense of the natural world. Asking questions, analyzing and interpreting data, using mathematics and computational thinking, constructing explanations and designing solutions, engaging in argument from evidence, and obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information are also essential practices that are less familiar and sometimes absent from many science classrooms. Making room in a curriculum for students to engage with “the other six practices” is critical. 

What does this look like in an Amplify Science classroom?

While some units lend themselves to more hands-on experiences than others, every Amplify Science unit includes hands-on investigations. But, just as scientists gather evidence from many types of sources, so do students in Amplify Science units. Like scientists, students using Amplify Science also gather evidence from physical models, digital models, texts, videos, photographs, maps, and data sets. Doing so requires using the full range of the practices called out in the NGSS: developing and using models, planning and carrying out investigations, analyzing and interpreting data, using mathematics and computational thinking, and obtaining information. 


Why are we revisiting concepts?

You'll often hear the phrase "a mile wide and an inch deep" used in reference to the now-outdated National Science Education Standards, developed in 1996. The authors behind the NGSS set out to achieve the opposite when they wrote the new standards. While there are actually relatively few performance expectations at each grade level in the NGSS, you will notice that the performance expectations don’t stop at descriptive knowledge (the what) rather they expect that students’ understanding will extend to the how and why. This requires a deeper understanding of the DCIs and CCCs, and repeated use of SEPs — spending more time immersed in specific content than many of us did (or even had time for) in the past.

To teach for that depth as well as retention, students need repeated encounters with the same science and engineering concepts in multiple ways. For example, a student may understand a concept by engaging in a hands-on investigation; however typically there is more to know about phenomena than what is observable in a hands-on encounter. Reading can broaden students’ understanding of a phenomenon, including aspects that are not directly observable. Research on learning lets us know that student-to-student discourse is also important for sense-making. When students communicate about that same concept or phenomenon, both verbally and in writing, they are not only coming to understand it better, but they are engaging in important science and engineering practices. These multiple (and varied) opportunities help to strengthen understanding and growth, preparing students to retain their newfound understanding and to better meet performance expectations at the end of the year.

What does this look like in an Amplify Science classroom?

The curriculum is designed to provide multiple encounters with important ideas and practices. This is different from a traditional approach that gives students one opportunity to interact with concepts and then moves on. Expertise comes from multiple opportunities to engage with a practice or concept. Consequently, the first time an idea is introduced, do not expect it to be completely covered. Students will get multiple opportunities to solidify and deepen their understanding. 

Amplify Science’s approach of providing multiple encounters with important ideas and practices allows students to make connections between concepts and deepen their understanding. Taking this idea further, students using the program are presented with a brand new problem to consider, giving them an opportunity to take what they’ve learned over the course of the unit thus far and apply it to this new context. 


Where are the quizzes?

You might be used to science programs that offer a myriad of multiple-choice quizzes throughout each unit. The NGSS’s focus on the three dimensions (SEPs, DCIs, and CCCs) and the ability to meet multidimensional performance expectations means that students will need to demonstrate their understanding and abilities in a variety of ways using multiple measures. Amplify Science provides a broad range of assessments, designed for this purpose.

What does this look like in an Amplify Science classroom?

This commitment to regular, multidimensional performance is clear in the embedded assessment opportunities that occur in nearly every lesson: Students investigate phenomena, construct scientific explanations, develop and use models, and engage in argument as a core part of the problem-based deep dives in each unit. While it is not feasible for every assessment opportunity to provide information about student progress along each dimension, careful consideration is given to ensure that each unit includes multiple opportunities to provide evidence of understanding of the focal concepts and practices in a given unit, as well as instructional suggestions for taking action based on that evidence.

Each unit includes a range of formative assessments embedded in instruction with the goal of providing regular, actionable information to the teacher with minimal impact on instructional time. Assessments include frequent unobtrusive observational assessments, end-of-chapter scientific explanations, evidence-based arguments, modeling activities, and student self-reflections. Units then conclude with a summative End-of-Unit Assessment that measures student mastery of the unit’s learning goals. In the final assessment, students craft sophisticated, evidence-based scientific arguments, models, and explanations, demonstrating their deep understanding of the ideas learned in the unit. 

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