Skip to main content

Digital Teaching Boxes

Digital teaching boxes
Digital Teaching Boxes

For over 20 years, the Teacher Institute has supported middle and high school science teachers in assembling “teaching boxes,” helping them to collect lessons, activities, assessments, and inexpensive supplies for a specific science unit in a single box. With the support of a National Institutes of Health Science Education Partnership Award, the Digital Teaching Boxes program for middle and high school life science teachers was designed to bring content related to health and biomedical research to students in support of implementing the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). This program brought together the expertise of the Exploratorium, research scientists, and life science teachers to work in small collaborative groups, mentoring one another as they assembled resources and developed curriculum materials. Workshops in the program covered a broad range of life science content, from cell biology to genomics to human evolution. The creation of Digital Teaching Boxes serves as a planning tool for teacher professional development.

More Life Sciences Resources


Science Snacks

Over the course of this project, Teacher Institute staff developed multiple new Science Snacks focused on teaching and learning life science. This collection of Snacks give students opportunities to explore phenomena related to cell biology, human variation, evolution, and more.


Snacks and the Next Generation Science Standards

The course of the Digital Teaching Box project aligned with the adoption and launch of NGSS in California. In the first years of implementation, teachers, schools, districts, professional learning providers like the Exploratorium, and other stakeholders began to interpret the standards into classroom practice. As a collective vision of NGSS developed, we learned that while stand-alone classroom resources such as hands-on activities, videos, and readings are valuable, shifting pedagogy towards NGSS requires teachers to focus on the framing and sequencing of classroom activities: why and how each activity supports students in asking and answering questions to explain and understand a natural phenomenon. (To learn more about how we use Snacks to support phenomena-based teaching and learning, see the Snacks and NGSS page.)

Creating an Activity Sequence for NGSS

To support teachers in designing classroom experiences in which students truly have the opportunity to figure something out, we developed a simple planning tool to help teachers create instructional sequences that center students’ observations and questions. Single activities in which students use the Science and Engineering Practices to construct knowledge about content are the raw material for an NGSS-aligned instructional sequence.

This sequence-planning tool can be used to plan a single lesson or an entire semester of instruction and prompts teachers to look at classroom activities through the lens of the student. Activities are sequenced based on questions raised or unanswered by previous activities, so that anticipated student observations and questions determine how learning unfolds.

Download PDF

Science education partnership award

This work was supported by the Office of the Director, National Institutes of Health (NIH) under Science Education Partnership Award Number R25OD016525. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the NIH.