National Science Standards for Middle School

Instructor: Marissa Baranauskas
Learn about the national science standards for middle school classrooms. Get information about the content middle school students will learn in class and become familiar with resources that can help them review science concepts.

Middle School National Science Standards

The K-12 Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) were developed in 2013 and have since been adopted by many states as guidelines for learning in this subject. The standards outline concepts that students should know and skills they should demonstrate for each grade level. The following are science concepts covered at the middle school level, arranged by the NGSS' four core disciplines.

You'll also find links to interactive courses designed to help students review this material. Each resource includes short video lessons and self-checking quizzes to help students improve their understanding of these core science concepts.

Physical Science

Middle school students will learn concepts related to matter, forces, energy, and waves. The NGSS organizes these physics topics into four main areas.

  • Matter and Its Interactions: Students will examine the characteristics of chemical reactions, make representations of molecular structures, and explain how natural resources are used to make man-made products. Students will also demonstrate an understanding of the law of conservation of matter and build a mechanism that produces or uses thermal energy.
  • Motion and Stability: Students will learn about Newton's laws of motion and gather evidence to support the existence of gravitational force as well as electric and magnetic fields.
  • Energy: Students will be introduced to factors affecting an object's kinetic and potential energy, such as mass and distance. They'll also design an experiment that examines how temperature change and kinetic energy are related and investigate ways to reduce the transfer of thermal energy.
  • Waves and Their Applications: Students will explain the association between wave properties and energy using mathematical equations and figures. Additionally, they'll learn how technologies use waves to transfer information.

Life Science

Standards for this subject will address cells, body systems, ecosystems, genetic influences, and evolution. NGSS areas of focus include:

  • From Molecules to Organisms: Students will identify parts of the cell and their roles as well as how they're organized into tissue and organ systems. Middle schoolers also examine how the actions of plants and animals affect their chances of reproduction and consider which factors impact the growth of plants and animals. Additionally, students work to understand photosynthesis, the chemical processes that occur with the breakdown of food molecules, and how sensory information is processed and stored.
  • Ecosystems: Students will consider how the amount of accessible resources impacts the development of an organism and its population. They'll explain how organisms behave in relation to each other and demonstrate the processes by which matter and energy are transferred and conserved within an ecosystem. Moreover, students will develop ideas to preserve biodiversity and natural processes in an ecosystem.
  • Heredity: Students will demonstrate how abnormalities in gene structure can produce variability in the proteins that determine an organism's traits. They'll also learn about the different genetic results produced by asexual and sexual reproduction.
  • Biological Evolution: Finally, students will make interpretations about the structure of past organisms by comparing and contrasting living organisms to the organisms found in rock layers and fossils. Students also compare the embryonic development of different species to look for similarities in their structure, explain how genetic characteristics of organisms can determine their ability to survive and reproduce, and describe the concept of natural selection. They also study the technologies used to genetically modify living things.

Earth and Space Sciences

Middle school students will cover concepts related to the solar system, Earth's changing landscape, weather processes, and the effect of humans on Earth's environment. Learning objectives for this subject cover:

  • Earth's Place in the Universe: Students will make models to demonstrate the relative positions of the Earth, sun, and moon as well as the impacts of gravitational forces on the movement of planets. They'll also discover what types of data are used to study the solar system and learn to make determinations about Earth's history through the observation of rock layers.
  • Earth's Systems: Students learn how different processes have altered the geological landscape of Earth through the study of plate tectonics and the water cycle. They'll understand how pressure systems can be used to predict weather and how such factors as land distribution and ocean circulation impact climate.
  • Earth and Human Activity: Additionally, students will learn about the presence and locations of limited natural resources. They'll also discover what types of data can be used to predict the occurrence of natural disasters and learn how technology can minimize their impact on humans. They'll develop ideas to reduce the negative effects humans have on the environment as well. Lastly, students learn how the population growth of humans taxes Earth's natural resources and consider the causes of climate change.

Engineering, Technology, and Applications of Science

This area focuses on honing the engineering and design skills students will need to conduct investigations and solve problems in the other science disciplines.

  • Engineering Design: Students will learn the processes involved in solving design problems. They will develop specific solutions with consideration given to limiting factors, such as the impact the solution has on the environment and society. Students will also design experiments to test and improve multiple solutions in order to determine how well each one meets initial specifications of the problem.

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