More than any other document or textbook, the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) has had a profound influence on science standards in the United States. The NGSS, which has a motto “by states, for states”, was created from a group of educators from over a dozen different states that met in 2012 and 2013 to iron out a set of science standards for various grade levels. Although relatively few states adopt the NGSS as their science standards, most states have science standards that are greatly inspired by the work of the NGSS. This is certainly true of Ohio, which recently updated their science standards and among the updates was a number of statements on “The Nature of Science” that was heavily influenced by the NGSS (as mentioned on the Ohio science standards page).
What kind of science-focused coding initiative would we be if we did not clearly outline how our activities align with the NGSS? Not a very good one. So to help teachers and administrators better understand how the almost two dozen activities we have developed align with various standards we created this spreadsheet.
The NGSS has three connected principles. There are science and engineering practices (like mathematical reasoning — not a science standard but certainly part of scientific thinking), there are core ideas (like Newton’s laws), and there are crosscutting concepts (like creating models).
An interesting thing about the NGSS is that one of the main practices is “using mathematics and computational thinking”. Computational thinking is an important new concept that we commented on in a new paper we released in July. Even though computational thinking is still today a novel concept for schools, the NGSS in 2013 could sense that it would be an important part of science instruction. So not only is “computational thinking” included alongside mathematics as a core science and engineering practice, the NGSS standards frequently mention “computer simulations” and “computational representations” throughout. Thanks to this emphasis, the task of connecting STEMcoding activities to NGSS standards is much more straightforward than it might otherwise have been.
If this all seems a little far out and abstract, or a betrayal of traditional science instruction, it is important to remember that science and computer science are now inextricably linked. As we saw with the imaging of the black hole in M87 that was released earlier this year, the triumph of the project was the sophisticated algorithms that combined the data from all the telescopes.
The iconic image above is computer scientist Katie Bouman looking at one of the first reconstructed images from the Event Horizon Telescope, which is a collaboration of radio telescopes from across the globe. This image is a reminder that computational thinking is now as much of a core idea to science as mathematical thinking. Thankfully, the writers of the NGSS understood this as much as anyone.