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NGSS Planning Tools

NGSS Planning Tools

For more than 35 years, the Teacher Institute has been creating Science Snacks—hands-on, teacher-tested activities that bring explorations of natural phenomena into the classroom. Each activity uses inexpensive, easily-available materials, offers detailed instructions and images, and is adaptable to a wide range of curricula, content areas, and grade levels.


Engaging with phenomena

Science Snacks provide the opportunity to notice, wonder about, and experiment directly with natural phenomena. The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) task teachers with framing learning around natural phenomena that inspire students to ask and answer questions using the Science and Engineering Practices.

We believe that by grounding inquiry in phenomena that are relevant to your students, you can thoughtfully sequence activities to help students investigate and explain the world around them. A phenomenon can be simple enough to explore through a single activity or complex enough to drive investigations all semester.

This diagram shows how classroom investigations can be organized to support students in exploring a complex phenomenon:

Phenomenon diagram

We have created two planning tools to help teachers adapt activities to align with NGSS, and to sequence activities to explain a phenomenon. Whether you use Exploratorium Science Snacks or explorations from other sources, the planning tools below can help you align your classroom practice with the learning described by NGSS.


"Adapting an Activity for NGSS" Planning Tool

Traditional science teaching often follows a pattern of introducing concepts and then confirming them with classroom experiences. The Next Generation Science Standards asks teachers to reframe this practice. Rather than simply presenting and proving concepts, NGSS tasks teachers with initiating learning through phenomena and then supporting students as they work to explain those phenomena, building their own understandings of concepts over time by engaging in authentic science practices.

Our planning tool, called “Adapting an Activity for NGSS,” can help support the process of modifying an activity to foreground and engage students with phenomena.

Download PDF: Adapting an Activity for NGSS


"Creating Activity Sequences for NGSS" Planning Tool

By carefully selecting activities that are engaging and accessible, and that provide key pieces of content, teachers can leverage student interest to make connections not only with a phenomenon, but also between one activity and the next. That’s the goal of our “Creating Activity Sequences for NGSS” planning tool. 

Since a primary goal of NGSS is for student questions to drive learning, teachers need to be prepared with investigations that can help students make their own connections. This planning tool is designed to help you consider the conclusions and questions students may generate in an activity, and use them to build an instructional sequence.

Download PDF: Creating Activity Sequences for NGSS


Want to see an example? This sample sequence, which focuses on biological concepts around cells, will give you an idea of how a sequence can be created from several related Science Snacks.


This work was supported in part by the National Science Foundation (NSF) under grant DRL-1503153 and the Office of the Director, National Institutes of Health (NIH) under Science Education Partnership Award Number R25OD016525.  Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the NSF or NIH.