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Next Generation Science Standards

About a week ago, on January 8,  the second draft of the Next Generation Science Standards were released for public comment.  This state-led effort headed by the National Research Council and the NSTA, aims to develop new K-12 science standards based on the most current research in science and science learning.
Describing a vision of what it means to be proficient in science, each standard will be made up of three dimensions- Practices, Crosscutting Concepts, and Disciplinary Core Ideas.
Practices emphasizes the skills necessary to engage in inquiry-based science as well as to investigate engineering design and STEM principles such as critical thinking and problem solving.  As many teachers agree, teaching the “T” and “E” in STEM are the most difficult, so these new standards will be a useful guide in strengthening a state or district curriculum.
Cross-cutting Concepts are a way to incorporate skills that bridge multiple disciplines.  Most of us would probably call them cross-curricular skills.  “These concepts need to be made explicit for students because they provide an organizational schema for interrelating knowledge from various science fields into a coherent and scientifically-based view of the world.”

Disciplinary Core Ideas (DCI) are are grouped in four domains: Physical Sciences, Life Sciences, Earth & Space Science and Engineering, Technology and Applications of Science.  These content areas strive to meet selected criteria that identify the DCI as critical in the K-12 science curriculum.


Marshmallow Launcher STEM Challenge

Marshmallow Launcher STEM Challenge

Say those words to your students and you’re sure to get a reaction. Who doesn’t want to have a little fun by designing and building a marshmallow slingshot?  But this isn’t just a time-filler; it’s a great little STEM challenge for kids of all ages.  Using some basic supplies, students can review the Engineering Design Process and embark in this design, build, test project.

Start with some basic supplies for each team:

  • 2 toilet-paper tubes (or 1 paper-towel tube, cut in half)
  • Tape
  • Single-hole punch (optional)
  • Pencil pen or marker
  • 2 thin rubber bands
  • Scissors
  • Marshmallow (Large)

Then, let the designing begin!  Challenge your students to design and create a marshmallow launcher (slingshot, trebuchet, or whatever) that will meet your design requirements.

What are your design requirements?  We’ve already outlined the required supplies (and you can modify these based on availability), so we just need to define the challenge.  Should we design a launcher that:

  • will launch a marshmallow the furthest? (distance)
  • will hit a designated target? (accuracy)
  • will keep the marshmallow aloft the longest? (time)

Or, work with students to design a challenge of your own. Whatever the challenge, students and teacher alike are sure to have an engaging STEM lesson.

For an inspirational video to introduce this lesson, visit the PBS Kids Design Squad page.  (There are also detailed instructions for building a specific kind of launcher, but that takes the fun out of the challenge!)


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