Next Generation Science Standards Framework Released

JULY 19, 2011 – The National Academies of Science released a framework today that will serve as the foundation for the creation of Next Generation Science Standards. The Framework for K-12 Science Education describes key ideas and practices in the natural sciences and engineering that all students should be familiar with by the time they graduate from high school.

The Framework was developed by a committee representing expertise in science, teaching and learning, curriculum, assessment and education policy. The National Research Council (NRC), the staffing arm of the National Academies of Science, coordinated the development of the Framework, which will be used as the basis for a state-led effort to create new K-12 science standards. Achieve will manage the process for developing the new standards.

“The National Research Council, working with the science and education communities, has done an excellent job creating a framework for the next generation of science education standards,” said Michael Cohen, president of Achieve. “This was a thorough and rigorous process and the NRC is to be congratulated.”

Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Commerce released a report showing that jobs in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) fields have grown at a much faster rate than non-STEM jobs over the past 10 years and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.

“In order to be scientifically literate and compete for the jobs of the future, our students must have a rigorous science education,” Mr. Cohen said. “This Framework is an important step in making sure all students have the opportunity to pursue postsecondary education and meaningful careers.”

Over the next year, content experts from states across the nation will work together to create science standards based on the Framework. The process will include the opportunity for input from those in the field, including K-12 educators, the scientific community, higher education, business leaders and the general public. The new standards should be released in late 2012.

“Creating the next generation of science standards will be a state-led process that takes into account the views of all stakeholders while staying firmly rooted in the NRC’s Framework,” said Stephen Pruitt, vice president for Content, Research and Development at Achieve. “The goal is to create a strong educational foundation in science so our students have the scientific background they need to be competitive in the 21st century.”

Great Science Content for the iPad

We have been uploading content from MSP2 Connecting News to the National Science Education Standards blog and the Beyond Penguins: Integrating Science and Literacy for K-5 Teachers online magazine into MagCloud – a print on demand service from Hewlett-Packard. They now have a new iPad app that allows folks to download issues from MagCloud onto their iPads for free.

iPad app download:
Browse MSP2 and Beyond Penguins content:

Birds of a Feather: Citizen-Science and Data Analysis

Do you need an innovative way to engage students in data collection and analysis? Or maybe you’d like to teach life science concepts in a more authentic context. Whether you are a science teacher, a math teacher, or both, you may want to consider a citizen-science project from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

Focusing on bird observation, the projects provide important information about species distribution and behavior to ornithologists. However, much of the data is also accessible online – providing opportunities for students to analyze and conduct inquiry-based projects.

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology sponsors many different citizen-science projects. We’ve highlighted four that might be most appropriate for middle school participation. You can learn more about all the projects at the CLO web site.

Participants record information about bird observations. The database is used by scientists, conservationists, and birdwatchers who want to know more about the distributions and movement patterns of birds across the continent.

Celebrate UrbanBirds
Participants learn about 16 species of urban birds, select a birdwatching area, and observe for 10 minutes, recording which species they see. Scientists use the data to study bird populations, behavior, and their interaction with the urban habitat. Celebrate Urban Birds also includes ideas and resources for urban greening activities.

Project PigeonWatch
Participants observe pigeons and record data about flock numbers, color, and mating behavior. The data is used by scientists to better understand why pigeons continue to exist in so many colors and which colors are preferred for mates. This project does not currently have online data entry available. Printable data forms can be completed and returned to the Lab.

Project NestWatch
Participants monitor nests and breeding habits of any bird species.

A series of BirdSleuth curriculum modules are available for purchase and can help teachers integrate the projects into their classrooms. However, these modules are not necessary for participation in any of the citizen-science projects.

Science and mathematics are seamlessly integrated in these projects. Participating in bird observation allows middle school students to learn these concepts in an authentic setting:

Life Science

·         Diversity and Adaptations of organisms
·         Populations and Ecosystems
·         Bird behavior


·         Data collection
·         Data analysis – graphing, statistics (range, mean, median, mode)

The citizen-science projects from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology can target the Life Science Content Standard of the National Science Education Standards. Bird observations may also lead to student-directed inquiry, which align with the Science as Inquiry Content Standard. Students also work on the NCTM Data Analysis and Probability Standard as well as the NCTM Connections Standard as they apply mathematics outside of a school context.

Best of all, these projects can be completed anytime, anywhere. Get your students outdoors and observing birds today!

We Want Your Feedback
We want and need your ideas, suggestions, and observations. What would you like to know more about? What questions have your students asked? We invite you to share with us and other readers by posting your comments. Please check back often for our newest posts or download the RSS feed for this blog. Let us know what you think and tell us how we can serve you better. We appreciate your feedback on all of our Middle School Portal 2 publications. You can also email us at Post updated 11/28/2011.

Hot Spots (Even in Cold Places)

Did you know that there’s an active volcano in Antarctica?

Mt. Erebus, the world’s southernmost active volcano, is located on Ross Island, just off the coast of Antarctica in the Ross Sea. Part of the Ring of Fire, Mt. Erebus is located along the boundary of the Scotia and Antarctic tectonic plates.

Students may be surprised to learn that an active volcano can be found in such a cold location. Yet the heat of a volcano and its lava has nothing to do with weather and climate and everything to do with Earth’s internal structure and the theory of plate tectonics. The connection between plate movement and volcanic activity is part of the typical middle school curriculum and included in the Earth and Space Science content standard of the National Science Education Standards for grades 5-8.

Too often, students’ experience with volcanoes comes in the form of baking soda/vinegar models, which can actually lead to the formation of misconceptions. Instead, use the following resources to help your students more accurately model and visualize volcanic activity.

Volcanoes Annotation
In this multi-day lesson, students investigate the processes that build volcanoes, the factors that influence different eruption types, and the threats volcanoes pose to their surrounding environments. After exploring these characteristics, students use what they have learned to identify physical features and eruption types in some real-life documented volcanic episodes. The lesson includes the use of many multimedia resources from the Teacher’s Domain collection.

Mt. Erebus Volcano Observatory
The MEVO web site provides background knowledge, video, photos, and other resources about the world’s southernmost active volcano.

Five lessons from the Hawai’i Space Grant Consortium provide opportunities for students to learn about magma’s movement inside volcanoes, the stratigraphy of lava flows, structures formed by lava, how particle size affects the angle of a volcano’s slope, and how to measure a liquid’s viscosity. Each lesson includes separate student and teacher pages.

Exploring the Environment: Volcanoes Annotation
A problem-based learning module in which students use online information to make decisions regarding four well known volcanoes. Designed for students in grades 7-12, but could be used with younger students needing additional challenge.

Plate Tectonics: Moving Middle School Science Annotation
The study of volcanoes at the middle school level is incomplete without a connection to the theory of plate tectonics. Discover background information, animations, activities, and standards alignment.

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Let us know what you think and tell us how we can serve you better. We want your feedback on all of the NSDL Middle School Portal science publications. Email us at

Polar Bears and Climate Change

Did you know that polar bears are at high risk of population decline and future extinction in our warming world? Dr. Steven Amstrup, a Research Wildlife Biologist with the United States Geological Survey, discussed the status of the iconic marine mammal in the lecture, “Polar Bear: Climate Change Sentinel.” The lecture was part of the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium’s Conservation Lecture Series. Dr. Amstrup works at the Alaska Science Center in Anchorage and has conducted research on polar bears for the past 28 years. He was part of the research group that prepared reports used in the listing of the polar bear as a threatened species.

Polar bears are the apex predator of the Arctic. They are closely tied to the sea ice, depending on it for mate selection, breeding, caring for young, and most importantly, hunting ringed and bearded seals. Pregnant females come on land in the fall and den for the entire winter to give birth and care for their cubs. The other bears continue to hunt on the sea-ice year round.

Studies have shown that polar bears prefer medium to thick sea ice over the shallower waters of the continental shelf. However, as Arctic sea ice has retreated in past years, bears are forced to travel out further (and over much deeper and less productive water) to hunt from the ice edge. In the West Hudson Bay area, females are coming ashore up to three weeks earlier and thus losing valuable time to feed before denning. In both cases this leads to decreased weight and a decreased survival rate of cubs and older individuals. Years of sea ice decline correlate with population decline in the Hudson Bay and Beaufort Sea areas, trends which are most likely consistent with other polar bear populations around the world.

Based on this data, researchers projected that as a result of global warming and sea ice decline, polar bear populations have a very high risk of extinction within the next century. One particular population in the Canadian archipelago may be able to survive through the end of the century, as the ice there is still thick and covering shallow water. Ice thinning in that area may open up increased hunting opportunities and support a larger population. However, if warming trends persist, this population will also eventually be at risk.

When asked how individuals could help polar bears, Amstrup spoke of immediate changes to reduce our carbon footprint. While large scale action by governments and corporations is certainly necessary, it is worthwhile to remember that changing our individual habits (and encouraging others to do the same) can make a difference.

A study of polar bears and their response to climate change aligns with the Life Science and the Science in Personal and Social Perspectives content standards of the National Science Education Standards.

The entire National Science Education Standards document can be read online or downloaded for free from the National Academies Press web site. Find science content standards in Chapter 6.


Polar Bears International
PBI is nonprofit organization dedicated to the worldwide conservation of the polar bear. Find background information and information about the bear’s listing as a threatened species.

 The Polar Bear Tracker
Follow the movements of polar bears throughout the Arctic. Use the real-time data to explore how global warming is affecting the bears.

Tracking Polar Bears
In this interactive activity adapted from the USGS Alaska Science Center, investigate the migration patterns of polar bears.

Polar Bears Change Diet
This radio broadcast from 2001 explains how polar bears have adjusted their diet due to the climate warming around Hudson Bay, Canada. The ringed seals that polar bears normally eat have been harder for polar bears to get to, due to disappearing ice. This has forced polar bears to begin eating harbor seals and bearded seals. The clip is 4 minutes and 15 seconds in length.

Polar Bears and Climate Change
This video from the World Wildlife Fund addresses the primary threat to polar bears in the Arctic today: global warming. Scientists monitor the effects of climate change on the large predator’s activities and range, study the bears’ physical condition, and explore why the melting of glaciers and reduction of sea ice in the Arctic region may ultimately have dire consequences for the polar bears.

Bearly Any Ice
This game is similar to tag that simulates the prey and predator relationship between polar bears and ringed seals. It demonstrates the drastic impact of global warming by linking the amount of sea ice and length of season of sea ice to the survival of the polar bear.

Science and the Polar Regions
Background information, lessons, resources, and standards alignment for a study of the polar regions.

We Want Your Feedback
We want and need your ideas, suggestions, and observations. What
would you like to know more about? What questions have your
students asked? We invite you to share with us and other readers
by posting your comments. Please check back often for our newest
posts or download the RSS feed for this blog. Let us know what
you think and tell us how we can serve you better. We appreciate
your feedback on all of our Middle School Portal 2
publications. You can also email us at Post
updated 12/07/2011.