The new Framework for K–12 Science Education was developed by the National Research Council of the National Academies of Science to describe what students today should know about science. Going forward, K–12 science curricula need to reflect this body of knowledge, as well as the Next Generation Science Standards. Below, we introduce the Framework and show how it and the Inquiry Curriculum align.

What are they?

Based on the most current research on science and science learning, the Framework for K–12 Science Education, released in 2011, and the Next Generation Science Standards present a new vision for science education. The Framework identifies the science ideas, content, and practices K–12 students should know and it guides effective science education. The Standards, developed through a state-led effort, are based on the Framework and provide guidelines for enacting the vision.

But how is this new vision different?

The new vision emphasizes deeper understanding of a few core ideas, crosscutting concepts, and student engagement in the practices of science and engineering. Moreover, COHERENCE is key. Core ideas, crosscutting concepts, and practices must cohere across grades as a progression, each one supporting the other and developing systematically over multiple years. There also must be coherence across the curriculum, instruction, and assessment within each grade.
  • School science commonly was organized by grade level around disconnected topics and addressed discrete facts.
  • Emphasis was placed on science knowledge.
  • All concepts were given relatively equal weight and attention.
  • Coherence of curriculum, instruction, and assessments with standards was limited.
  • School science now emphasizes understanding of a few core ideas that develops over time and deepens from grade to grade.
  • Emphasis not only on knowledge, but also on science practices that build and deepen that knowledge.
  • Emphasis on a few essential core ideas and concepts that cross disciplinary boundaries (crosscutting concepts) and provide an organizational framework for science knowledge.
  • Curriculum, instruction, and assessment align with the standards, target the same goals, and together support learning within grades and across grades.

What is the Inquiry Curriculum?

The Inquiry Curriculum is a grade 3–5 progression of coherent study about the core idea of Matter:
Investigating Materials and Objects
Observing and Measuring Things in My World
Investigating Earth Materials
Which Properties Change and Which Stay the Same?
Investigating Water Transformations
Keeping Track of Matter

Learning is organized around questions to be investigated. But answers are not enough in the Inquiry Curriculum. Students must OWN the evidence behind their reasoning. They work collaboratively with peers, use data to construct explanations, and assess their ideas and those of others. A culture of scientific talk and practice develops as well as deeper understanding.

Each investigation question is designed to deepen students’ understanding of the disciplinary core idea, the practices of science, and the crosscutting concepts.

Does the Inquiry Curriculum reflect the vision outlined in the Framework and Standards?

Let’s take a look . . .

The Framework calls for learning to focus on a small set of core ideas in each science discipline.
The Inquiry Curriculum focuses on the nature of matter.

Four ideas progressively develop and deepen from grade to grade to build a rich framework for understanding the structure and properties of matter:

  • Weight

    The weight of objects can be compared using a pan balance and standard (gram) units.
  • Volume

    Two solid objects cannot occupy the same space.

    The amount of 3D space that objects occupy can be compared.
  • Material

    Objects can be described in terms of their weight and volume and the materials they are made of (clay, cloth, paper, etc.). Materials have observable physical properties such as color, size, texture, flexibility, etc.

    Same size objects can have different weights when they are made of different materials.
  • Matter

    Materials can be subdivided into small pieces and the pieces still have weight.
  • Weight

    The weight of solids and/or liquids can be compared using a digital scale and can be represented on a weight line or a table.

    Weight is conserved during crushing and reshaping Liquid and solid volumes can be measured in cubic centimeters.
  • Volume

    Weight is conserved during crushing and reshaping Liquid and solid volumes can be measured in cubic centimeters.

    When immersed, a solid displaces a liquid volume equal to the solid volume.
  • Material

    The relationship between weight and volume (i.e. density) is a property of solid and liquid materials.
  • Matter

    Matter can be divided into tiny pieces, and even the tiniest pieces have weight and take up space.
  • Weight

    Weight is conserved during dissolving, freezing, melting, evaporation and condensation.
  • Volume

    Volume may not be conserved in phase change.
  • Material

    Air is a mixture of gaseous materials composed of particles too small and spread apart to see. Melting, freezing, evaporation and condensation change the form of matter but do not change the material.
  • Matter

    Matter is composed of particles that have weight, occupy space, and are too small to see.

    Gases, liquids and solids are all forms of matter and have weight and take up space.
All eight practices are integral to the Inquiry Curriculum
Asking questions and defining problems
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Developing and using models
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Planning and carrying out investigations
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Analyzing and interpreting data
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Using mathematics and computational thinking
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Constructing explanations and designing solutions
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Engaging in argument from evidence
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Obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information
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The Framework identifies seven important concepts that bridge disciplinary boundaries. These concepts help students to connect knowledge from different disciplines into a coherent view.
Cause and Effect
Scale, Proportion, and Quality
Systems and system models
Energy and Matter
Structure and Function
Stability and change