Carolina Biological-Knowledge Center - May 09-2023

The NSTA Atlas of the Three Dimensions

by: Ted Willard

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New in 2020!
Download and read a sample chapter from this book to learn more.
A key aspect of learning in K–12 education is the idea that what students know and are able to do grows and evolves over time. Simple ideas learned in the early elementary grades gain levels of detail and complexity as students progress in their education. Connections between different topics and disciplines are made.

Therefore, a key feature of setting standards for students is to describe learning progressions. Simply put, a learning progression is an articulation of the “steps along the way” that a student might go through as he or she works toward mastery of something. Although one path does not apply to all students, some paths are more common than others.

A Framework for K–12 Science Education (the Framework) provides specific grade-band endpoints for the disciplinary core ideas and describes progressions for the science and engineering practices and crosscutting concepts. The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and other standards based on the Framework contain tables of progressions for all three dimensions.

What’s missing is a way to illustrate these connections. That’s where The NSTA Atlas of the Three Dimensions comes in. It’s your user-friendly guide to understanding how ideas build on one other and relate to each other. With the NSTA Atlas, you’ll be able to trace the prerequisites for understanding science in every grade, make the appropriate connections to support science content, and show the way to the next steps in your students’ science education—all in the context of today’s standards.

The 62 maps in the NSTA Atlas organize all of the elements from the standards on a particular topic (e.g., modeling, patterns, or definitions of energy) on a single page. The elements from grades K–2 are at the bottom of the page, and those from grades 9–12 are at the top. Arrows connect elements to indicate how ideas in a particular topic build on each other and how elements in different topics connect to one another. Because the maps prompt you to think about ways student learning can build over time, the NSTA Atlas is useful even if you teach in a state that hasn’t adopted the NGSS.

By studying the maps in the NSTA Atlas and the additional resources in the appendixes, you’ll gain new insights about the standards and have a powerful navigational tool to help you plan your curriculum, instruction, and assessment.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents


About the Author



Map Key

List of Topic Codes

Chapter 1: Science and Engineering Practices

1.1: Asking Questions and Defining Problems (AQDP)

1.2: Developing and Using Models (MOD)

1.3: Planning and Carrying Out Investigations (INV)

1.4: Analyzing and Interpreting Data (DATA)

1.5: Using Mathematics and Computational Thinking (MATH)

1.6: Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions (CEDS)

1.7: Engaging in Argument From Evidence (ARG)

1.8: Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating Information (INFO)

Chapter 2: Crosscutting Concepts

2.1: Patterns (PAT)

2.2: Cause and Effect: Mechanism and Explanation (CE)

2.3: Scale, Proportion, and Quantity (SPQ)

2.4: Systems and System Models (SYS)

2.5: Energy and Matter: Flows, Cycles, and Conservation (EM)

2.6: Structure and Function (SF)

2.7: Stability and Change (SC)

Chapter 3: Disciplinary Core Ideas—Physical Science

3.1: Structure and Properties of Matter (PS1.A)

3.2: Chemical Reactions and Nuclear Processes (PS1.B & PS1.C)

3.3: Forces and Motion (PS2.A)

3.4: Types of Interactions (PS2.B)

3.5: Definitions of Energy (PS3.A)

3.6: Conservation of Energy and Energy Transfer (PS3.B & PS3.C)

3.7: Energy in Chemical Processes and Everyday Life (PS3.D)

3.8: Wave Properties (PS4.A)

3.9: Electromagnetic Radiation and Information Technologies (PS4.B & PS4.C)

Chapter 4: Disciplinary Core Ideas—Life Science

4.1: The Structure and Function of Organisms (LS1.A, LS1.B, & LS1.D)

4.2: Flow of Matter and Energy in Living Systems (LS1.C & LS2.B)

4.3: Interdependent Relationships and Social Interactions in Ecosystems (LS2.A & LS2.D)

4.4: Ecosystem Dynamics, Functioning, and Resilience (LS2.C & LS4.D)

4.5: Inheritance and Variation of Traits (LS3.A & LS3.B)

4.6: Natural Selection and Evolution (LS4.A, LS4.B, & LS4.C)

Chapter 5: Disciplinary Core Ideas—Earth and Space Science

5.1: The Earth, the Solar System, and the Universe (ESS1.A & ESS1.B)

5.2: Earths Systems (ESS2.A & ESS2.E)

5.3: Plate Tectonics and the History of Planet Earth (ESS1.C & ESS2.B)

5.4: Weather and Climate (ESS2.C & ESS2.D)

5.5: Natural Resources and Natural Hazards (ESS3.A & ESS3.B)

5.6: Humans Impacts on Earth Systems (ESS3.C & ESS3.D)

Chapter 6: Disciplinary Core Ideas—Engineering, Technology, and Applications of Science

6.1: Defining and Delimiting an Engineering Problem (ETS1.A)

6.2: Developing and Optimizing Design Solutions (ETS1.B & ETS1.C)

Chapter 7: Connections to Nature of Science

7.1: Scientific Investigations Use a Variety of Methods (VOM)

7.2: Scientific Knowledge Is Based on Empirical Evidence (BEE)

7.3: Scientific Knowledge Is Open to Revision in Light of New Evidence (OTR)

7.4: Science Models, Laws, Mechanisms, and Theories Explain Natural Phenomena (ENP)

7.5: Science Is a Way of Knowing (WOK)

7.6: Scientific Knowledge Assumes an Order and Consistency in Natural Systems (AOC)

7.7: Science Is a Human Endeavor (HE)

7.8: Science Addresses Questions About the Natural and Material World (AQAW)

Chapter 8: Connections to Engineering, Technology, and Applications of Science

8.1: Interdependence of Science, Engineering, and Technology (INTER)

8.2: Influence of Engineering, Technology, and Science on Society and the Natural World (INFLU)

Chapter 9: Performance Expectations

Physical Science

9.1: Matter and Its Interactions

9.2: Forces and Interactions

9.3: Energy

9.4: Waves and Electromagnetic Radiation

Life Science

9.5: Structure, Function, and Information Processing

9.6: Matter and Energy in Organisms and Ecosystems

9.7: Interdependent Relationships in Ecosystems

9.8: Inheritance and Variation of Traits

9.9: Natural Selection and Evolution

Earth and Space Science

9.10: Space Systems

9.11: Processes That Shape the Earth

9.12: Weather and Climate

9.13: Human Interactions with Earth Systems

Engineering, Technology, and Applications of Science

9.14: Engineering Design


A. List of All Elements of the Three Dimensions

B. List of All Performance Expectations With Their Clarification Statements and Assessment Boundaries

C. The Connections Box

D. Cross-References Between Performance Expectations and Disciplinary Core Idea Elements

E. Text of the Off-Map Elements for Selected Maps

Image Credits

List of Reviewers

Index of Elements

Index of Performance Expectations

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