STEM & Next Generation Science Standards

Instructor: Carrie Soucy
The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) underscore the importance of STEM education by emphasizing many of the skills students need to succeed in the STEM fields. Read on to learn how the NGSS support the STEM initiative.

NGSS and STEM Education

The Next Generation Science Standards aim to improve the way American students learn and apply science skills, thereby strengthening their understanding of, and interest in, science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields. To accomplish this goal, all three of the NGSS key components - disciplinary core ideas, crosscutting concepts, and science and engineering practices - focus on making the STEM fields more relatable to students. This begins in kindergarten and, with increasing complexity, continues throughout elementary, middle and high school.

Why STEM and the NGSS are Important

The Next Generation Science Standards were developed, in part, because American students continue to lag behind those in other countries in science, technology, engineering and math. Studies show that a majority of high school graduates are not adequately prepared for college science classes, and fewer American students are pursuing STEM majors and careers. Given the criticality of the science, technology, engineering and math sectors to the U.S. economy, and the importance of STEM skills for American adults, the NGSS initiative is not alone in addressing the need to improve STEM education. The U.S. Department of Education, along with smaller educational and research organizations across the country, are similarly executing initiatives to boost student performance in STEM subjects.

How NGSS Stimulates Interest in STEM

Unlike most previous state standards for science education, the NGSS give engineering and technology the same importance as traditional science subjects among its disciplinary core ideas for all grades. Meanwhile, the ideas explored within the other NGSS disciplinary subject areas - life sciences, physical sciences, and earth and space sciences - were chosen, in part, because they relate to student's real-life experiences.

NGSS further emphasizes the importance of STEM through its engineering practices and crosscutting concepts, which apply to each standard at all grade levels. Engineering practices, in particular, emphasize the practicality and applicability of what students learn in science classes, thereby making STEM fields more understandable, interesting and appealing to students of all grades.

Engineering Practices

It is widely accepted that students who actively engage in lessons relating to STEM subjects are better prepared to master concepts than students who simply memorize facts. Thus, the Next Generation Science Standards require students to demonstrate their knowledge of scientific subjects through science and engineering practices. These include both the practices of scientific inquiry and the problem-solving skills required within the engineering field. The NGSS science and engineering practices include defining problems, analyzing data, creating models, conducting investigations, designing solutions, thinking mathematically, using information, and engaging in evidence-based argument.

Crosscutting Concepts

The seven NGSS crosscutting concepts were chosen for their universal applicability to all science and engineering fields. These concepts are applied to all disciplinary areas, with increasing difficulty, throughout K - 12 to encourage students to think scientifically and master the skills they will need in any STEM field. The concepts are patterns; cause and effect; scale, proportion and quantity; systems and system models; energy and matter; structure and function; and stability and change.

NGSS and STEM Resources for Teachers

For ideas on how to incorporate NGSS engineering practices and crosscutting concepts into your classroom lessons and accelerate your students' STEM education, offers online science courses for educators to use with students at every grade level. Each course features multiple chapters and video lessons that you may integrate into your instruction:

Grade Level Courses
High School High School Biology, High School Physical Science, Earth Science
Middle School Life Science Middle School, Physical Science: Middle School, Earth Science: Middle School
Elementary School Science for Kids

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