Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)

The development of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) for K-12 science education comes from the study, A Framework for K-12 Science Education, which outlines a broad set of expectations for students in science and engineering. This study identified three dimensions that convey the core ideas and practices around which science and engineering education in these grades should be built. The three dimensions are:

  1. crosscutting concepts that unify the study of science through their common application across science and engineering
  2. scientific and engineering practices
  3. disciplinary core ideas in the physical sciences, life sciences, and earth and space sciences and for engineering, technology, and the applications of science

The Next Generation Science Standards are designed to help realize a vision for education in the science and engineering in which students, over multiple years of school, actively engage in scientific and engineering practices and apply crosscutting concepts to deepen their understanding of the core ideas in these fields.

Advances in the Next Generation Science Standards

Scientific and Engineering Practices and Crosscutting Concepts are designed to be taught in context – not in a vacuum.  The NGSS encourage integration with multiple core concepts throughout each year.

Science concepts build coherently across K-12. The emphasis of the NGSS is a focused and coherent progression of knowledge from grade band to grade band, allowing for a dynamic process of building knowledge throughout a student’s entire K-12 scientific education.

The NGSS focus on a smaller set of Disciplinary Core Ideas (DCI) that students should know by the time they graduate from high school, focusing on deeper understanding and application of content.

Science and engineering are integrated into science education by raising engineering design to the same level as scientific inquiry in science classroom instruction at all levels, and by emphasizing the core ideas of engineering design and technology applications.

The NGSS content is focused on preparing students for college and careers. The NGSS are aligned, by grade level and cognitive demand with the English Language Arts and Mathematics Common Core State Standards. This allows an opportunity both for science to be a part of a child’s comprehensive education as well as ensuring an aligned sequence of learning in all content areas. The three sets of standards overlap and are reinforcing in meaningful and substantive ways. 

  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


The seven crosscutting scientific and engineering concepts covering all the science disciplines are:

  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.

The core ideas for K-12 science instruction:

  1. Have broad importance across multiple sciences or engineering disciplines or are a key organizing principle of a single discipline.
  2. Provide a key tool for understanding or investigating more complex ideas and solving problems.
  3. Relate to the interests and life experiences of students or be connected to societal or personal concerns that require scientific or technological knowledge.
  4. Are teachable and learnable over multiple grades at increasing levels of depth and sophistication. That is, the idea can be made accessible to younger students but is broad enough to sustain continued investigation over years.


Core Idea ESS1: Earth’s Place in the Universe

ESS1.A: The Universe and Its Stars

ESS1.B: Earth and the Solar System

ESS1.C: The History of Planet Earth

Core Idea ESS2: Earth’s Systems

ESS2.A: Earth Materials and Systems

ESS2.B: Plate Tectonics and Large-Scale System Interactions

ESS2.C: The Roles of Water in Earth’s Surface Processes

ESS2.D: Weather and Climate

ESS2.E: Biogeology

Core Idea ESS3: Earth and Human Activity

ESS3.A: Natural Resources

ESS3.B: Natural Hazards

ESS3.C: Human Impacts on Earth Systems

ESS3.D: Global Climate Change



Core Idea LS1: From Molecules to Organisms: Structures and Processes

LS1.A: Structure and Function

LS1.B: Growth and Development of Organisms

LS1.C: Organization for Matter and Energy Flow in Organisms

LS1.D: Information Processing

Core Idea LS2: Ecosystems: Interactions, Energy, and Dynamics

LS2.A: Interdependent Relationships in Ecosystems

LS2.B: Cycles of Matter and Energy Transfer in Ecosystems

LS2.C: Ecosystem Dynamics, Functioning, and Resilience

LS2.D: Social Interactions and Group Behavior

Core Idea LS3: Heredity: Inheritance and Variation of Traits

LS3.A: Inheritance of Traits

LS3.B: Variation of Traits

Core Idea LS4: Biological Evolution: Unity and Diversity

LS4.A: Evidence of Common Ancestry and Diversity

LS4.B: Natural Selection

LS4.C: Adaptation

LS4.D: Biodiversity and Humans



Core Idea PS1: Matter and Its Interactions

PS1.A: Structure and Properties of Matter

PS1.B: Chemical Reactions

PS1.C: Nuclear Processes

Core Idea PS2: Motion and Stability: Forces and Interactions

PS2.A: Forces and Motion

PS2.B: Types of Interactions

PS2.C: Stability and Instability in Physical Systems

Core Idea PS3: Energy

PS3.A: Definitions of Energy

PS3.B: Conservation of Energy and Energy Transfer

PS3.C: Relationship between Energy and Forces

PS3.D: Energy in Chemical Processes and Everyday Life

Core Idea PS4: Waves and Their Applications in Technologies for Information Transfer

PS4.A: Wave Properties

PS4.B: Electromagnetic Radiation

PS4.C: Information Technologies and Instrumentation