How to Meet the Next Generation Science Standards with Population Education

This first post of a 4-part series showcasing how Population Education lesson plans can be used to meet the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). This introduction demonstrates how population and environmental topics fit into the new the NGSS three-dimensional framework for science education. Our remaining three posts will take a closer look at the standards for elementary, middle, and high school grades. For each grade band we’ll explore one Population Education lesson plan and explain how it can be used to meet a specific NGS Standard.

What are the Next Generation Science Standards?

The Next Generation Science Standards reflect a new vision for science education in America. The Standards are a product of a state-lead demand for rigorous and globally competitive performance outcomes. The NGSS fundamentally change the way science is taught by focusing on deeper understanding of content knowledge and application. This new method of teaching science operates under three dimensions: practices (skills and application), crosscutting concepts (unifying themes), and disciplinary core ideas (disciplinary standards). To date, 26 states have registered as lead partners and of those 26, many have already begun classroom implementation. As a nationwide effort similar to Common Core, the NGSS are sometimes referred to as the Common Core Science Standards though they are not connected to the CCSS.

How Population Education fits the NGSS Three-Dimensional Framework

Population and the related social and environmental issues fit into all three dimensions of the NGSS framework. In fact, teachers can use human ecology as a common thread to show how all three dimensions are interconnected. We have broken down each dimension and given a way in which population and environmental issues can be incorporated.

  1. Practices: The practice dimension encourages inquiry, skill building, and solutions-based thinking. Students are asked to design solutions to complex real world economic, societal, and environmental problems. Ties between NGSS Practices and population-related topics include: resource consumption, energy efficiency, food production, public health, social equity, and development.

  2. Crosscutting Concepts: The NGSS standards focus on six universal concepts found in all disciplines of science. Teachers can use population as a platform for addressing cause and effect relationships as well as ecosystem stability and change. Ties between NGSS Crosscutting Concepts and population-related topics include: feedback loops, the greenhouse effect, food webs, and land use.

  3. Disciplinary Core IdeasThe K-12 curriculum standards are grouped into four themes: physical sciences; life sciences; earth and space sciences; and engineering, technology, and applications of science. Most population-related standards fall under the Earth and Space Sciences theme (ESS). The third core idea (ESS3) also ties to human ecology as it addresses human interaction with the natural world and covers issues such as resource scarcity and climate change

Meeting the Standards: Earth and Space Sciences

At the end of the day, all lessons must tie back to a standard. The majority of population and environmental topics fall under NGSS Core Idea ESS3: Human Impacts on Earth’s Systems. This Core idea requires students to analyze the ways in which a growing human population has changed the planet and challenges them to formulate solutions using innovation and technology. Under this core idea students will:

  • Explore the ways in which human activities have altered and continue to alter the natural landscape

  • Describe the ways humans can reduce their impact on the natural world through personal choices such as reuse and recycling

  • Categorize and evaluate the various methods employed by humans to protect Earth’s resources and environments (sewage treatment, reducing consumption, environmental regulation, etc.)

  • Investigate how humans have become a major agent of change in recent decades

Population Education is committed to helping teachers meet the Next Generation Science Standards as they adjust to this new shift in science education. Stay tuned next week for three posts on how to incorporate Population Education resources into your NGSS curriculum planning.

NGSS Lesson Plan Showcase: 

K-5: NGSS Lesson Plan for Elementary Grades - Water  Water Everywhere

6-8: NGSS Lesson Plan for Middle School – How Much Space Do We Need?

9-12: NGSS Lesson Plan for High School – Bye, Bye Birdie