NGSS Life Science for Middle School

Instructor: Carrie Soucy
Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) for middle school aim to educate students about core life science topics and improve their understanding of the concepts that apply to all scientific disciplines. Read on for details about these middle school standards for life science.

Overview of NGSS for Middle School Life Science

Middle school life science standards are organized into four main concentrations, which students will continue to learn about until they graduate from high school. Standards in each concentration detail multiple performance expectations designed to ensure students learn key science concepts and are able to both analyze and explain scientific data. These areas of concentration include:

From Molecules to Organisms: Structures and Processes

The overall goal of this concentration is for students to understand the role of cells in the development and composition of living things. NGSS require that, by the end of middle school, students be able to:

  • Investigate and generate evidence of the existence of cells
  • Create plant and animal cell models to explain the function of various cell organelles
  • Understand how cells are organized into tissues, organs and organ systems
  • Describe the chemical reactions that allow organisms to process food
  • Explain how plant and animal structures and processes impact reproduction
  • Understand and communicate the impact of genes and environment on an organism's growth
  • Explain the process and role of photosynthesis
  • Understand the function of sensory receptors

Interactions, Energy and Dynamics Relationships in Ecosystems

In this concentration, standards are structured to help students learn about the components of an ecosystem and how they support life. According to NGSS, by the end of middle school, students should be able to:

  • Use data to show how the availability of resources impacts life within an ecosystem
  • Explain interactions occurring between organisms within different ecosystems
  • Create models that illustrate energy flow in an ecosystem
  • Communicate facts that identify which changes to an ecosystem impact species populations
  • Assess different methods of supporting and preserving biodiversity

Heredity: Inheritance and Variation of Traits

Standards in this concentration are designed to help students explore factors influencing genetic inheritance. Students completing middle school know how to:

  • Use models to illustrate the impact of genetic mutations on an organism
  • Understand the genetic differences between sexual and asexual reproduction

Biological Evolution: Unity and Diversity

The NGSS performance expectations for this life science concentration ensure students understand how the environment impacts changes to living things over the course of generations. Before moving on to high school, students should be able to:

  • Evaluate data that supports the historical evolution of organisms
  • Explain evolution by comparing anatomical information
  • Interpret patterns in embryonic development
  • Explain the process and impact of natural selection
  • Understand artificial selection and the impact of technology on heredity

Help and Review for NGSS Life Science Subjects

If you're a student studying NGSS life science topics or a teacher interested in supplemental lessons in these areas,'s Middle School Life Science course has helpful video lessons and assessment quizzes that focus on each NGSS concentration. Examples include:

NGSS Life Science Concentration Lessons
From Molecules to Organisms: Structures and Processes The Parts of Cells
Cell Division and the Cell Cycle
Interactions, Energy and Dynamics Relationships in Ecosystems How Living Organisms Get Energy
Intro to Ecosystems
Types of Ecosystems
Changing Ecosystems
Heredity: Inheritance and Variation of Traits Genetics and Heredity Traits
Mammal Reproduction and Development
How Plants Grow and Reproduce
Biological Evolution: Unity and Diversity Genetic Engineering Basics
Natural Selection and Evolution

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