Crosscutting Concepts Part 1: Patterns in K-2
Posted: Tuesday, January 6th, 2015
by Valerie Joyner
As early childhood science educators, we are beginning to explore and gain understanding about the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). We know that NGSS will require us to teach science through three dimensions: practices, disciplinary core ideas (i.e. content), and crosscutting concepts. In the past our main emphasis was teaching science through one or sometimes two dimensions with lessons focused on conveying factual content of physical, life, and earth/space sciences, with perhaps some practices added in (formerly known as science process skills). However, three-dimensional learning requires us to take an entirely new approach to science education, one that deliberately teaches with all dimensions.
This article will be the first in a series exploring crosscutting concepts and offering some ideas for applications in the primary grades. Crosscutting concepts “provide students with connections and intellectual tools that are related across the different areas of disciplinary content and can enrich the application of practices and their understanding of core ideas (NRC, 2012, pg. 233)”. In other words, these fundamental conceptual tools are necessary for students to learn effectively, and must be specifically nurtured and referenced throughout all grade levels in all disciplines.
There are seven crosscutting concepts: 1) patterns, 2) cause and effect, 3) scale, proportion, and quantity, 4) systems and system models, 5) energy and matter: flows, cycles, and conservation, 6) structure and function, and 7) stability and change. All students will need explicit instruction in these crosscutting concepts and these concepts must never be omitted. Our first introduction will be to the concept of patterns. It’s little surprise patterns are embraced by NGSS as one of seven fundamental crosscutting concepts because they play a crucial practical role in early childhood science education. They can also be a powerful tool to awaken curiosity with great visuals, hands on interactions, and interesting details to observe, and make a great starting point for our discussion of how crosscutting can look in primary classrooms.
In classrooms currently, students study patterns in math, reading, writing, and social studies. As an early childhood educator you’ve seen the importance of finding and using patterns in the everyday lives of your students. When students discover patterns they begin to make sense of the world around them. Such patterns are everywhere and observing and learning from them is critical to science literacy. For example, students can observe patterns such as that the sun rises, then the sun sets. It is usually colder at night than in the daytime. Leaves bud in the spring, change colors in the fall, and fall in the winter. In NGSS the core primary crosscutting concept is that observed patterns can be explained.
True to the crosscutting ideal, the NGSS framework puts more clarity and emphasis on these ideas as unifying threads that tie knowledge together across the disciplines. When we use consistent words throughout our teaching to signal the fundamental crosscutting concepts like patterns, we strengthen students’ understanding by connecting knowledge between each subject.
In kindergarten, students study local weather to find patterns over time. They make qualitative observations about the weather like, “It is a sunny day,” and then quantify their observations by recording the number of rainy, cloudy, and snowy days. Through their observations and data collection patterns begin to emerge.
In 1st grade, students look at the patterns in the sky (sun, moon, and stars) and the amount of daylight throughout the year. They notice that the sun is in the sky in the day and stars appear at night. They can record data over time to reveal daylight and nighttime during different seasons of the year. For example: “It is dark when I have dinner in the winter, but it is light when I eat dinner in the summer”.
In 2nd grade, students look at the patterns in shapes and kinds of land and bodies of water and that water on Earth can be solid or liquid. They learn that lakes are surrounded by land and rivers have banks and that lakes freeze where it is very cold or dry up when there is too much sunshine and not enough rain.
Understanding patterns serves as a basis for core ideas and practices in science and engineering, and the importance of establishing this understanding in the primary classroom cannot be overstated. As young students begin to recognize patterns in the natural and man-made world they then use them to reveal different ways things are organized, understand and describe phenomena, and gather evidence to support their findings. We have the extraordinary opportunity in our primary science teaching to confer lifelong benefits by encouraging young minds to apply pattern understanding as a tool in all areas of life to seek further information and understanding.
Thank you for reading this introduction to the crosscutting concept of patterns. Take these ideas into your classroom today, share them with your colleagues, and collaborate to cultivate the habit of referencing patterns consistently wherever they appear in all subjects.
Look for the next article in the series on another of the seven crosscutting concepts. We’d love to hear your ideas, challenges, and experiences around introducing and reinforcing pattern understanding in your primary setting, so share any feedback in the comments or via email. What crosscutting concept would you like to see us cover next?
Posted: Monday, March 27th, 2017
The California Science Teachers Association (CSTA) stands with our science and science education colleagues in endorsing the March For Science and its associated activities.
The decision by the CSTA Board of Directors to support the March for Science was based on the understanding that this is an opportunity to advocate for our mission of high quality science education for all and to advance the idea that science has application to everyday life, is a vehicle for lifelong learning, and the scientific enterprise expands our knowledge of the world around us. The principles and goals of the March for Science parallel those of CSTA to assume a leadership role in solidarity with our colleagues in science and science education and create an understanding of the value of science in the greater community. CSTA believes that the integrity of the nature of science and that the work of scientists and science educators should be valued and supported. We encourage your participation to stand with us.
There are over 30 satellite marches planned for the April 22, 2017 March for Science in California (to find a march near you, click on “marches” in the upper right of the main page, select “satellite marches” and use the search feature). We encourage members who participate in the March for Science to share their involvement and promotion of science and science education. Feel free to promote CSTA on your signs and banners. For those on social media, you may share your involvement via Twitter, @cascience and our Facebook groups.
Posted: Tuesday, March 14th, 2017
The pre-publication version of the new California Science Curriculum Framework is now available for download. This publication incorporates all the edits that were approved by the State Board of Education in November 2016 and was many months in the making. Our sincere thanks to the dozens of CSTA members were involved in its development. Our appreciation is also extended to the California Department of Education, the State Board of Education, the Instructional Quality Commission, and the Science Curriculum Framework and Evaluation Criteria Committee and their staff for their hard work and dedication to produce this document and for their commitment to the public input process. To the many writers and contributors to the Framework CSTA thanks you for your many hours of work to produce a world-class document.
For tips on how to approach this document see our article from December 2016: California Has Adopted a New Science Curriculum Framework – Now What …? If you would like to learn more about the Framework, consider participating in one of the Framework Launch events (a.k.a. Rollout #4) scheduled throughout 2017.
The final publication version (formatted for printing) will be available in July 2017. This document will not be available in printed format, only electronically.
Posted: Monday, March 13th, 2017
The 2017 Award Season is now open! One of the benefits of being a CSTA member is your eligibility for awards as well as your eligibility to nominate someone for an award. CSTA offers several awards and members may nominate individuals and organizations for the Future Science Teacher Award, the prestigious Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award, and the CSTA Distinguished Contributions Award (organizational award). May 9, 2017 is the deadline for nominations for these awards. CSTA believes that the importance of science education cannot be overstated. Given the essential presence of the sciences in understanding the past and planning for the future, science education remains, and will increasingly be one of the most important disciplines in education. CSTA is committed to recognizing and encouraging excellence in science teaching through the presentation of awards to science educators and organizations who have made outstanding contributions in science education in the state and who are poised to continue the momentum of providing high quality, relevant science education into the future. Learn More…
Posted: Monday, March 13th, 2017
CSTA is now accepting applications from regular, preservice, and retired members to serve on our volunteer committees! CSTA’s all-volunteer board of directors invites you to consider maximizing your member experience by volunteering for CSTA. CSTA committee service offers you the opportunity to share your expertise, learn a new skill, or do something you love to do but never have the opportunity to do in your regular day. CSTA committee volunteers do some pretty amazing things: Learn More…
Posted: Monday, March 13th, 2017
by Marian Murphy-Shaw
If you attended an NGSS Rollout phase 1-3 or CDE workshops at CSTA’s annual conference you may recall hearing from Chris Breazeale when he was working with the CDE. Chris has relocated professionally, with his passion for science education, and is now the Executive Director at the Explorit Science Center, a hands-on exploration museum featuring interactive STEM exhibits located at the beautiful Mace Ranch, 3141 5th St. in Davis, CA. Visitors can “think it, try it, and explorit” with a variety of displays that allow visitors to “do science.” To preview the museum, or schedule a classroom visit, see www.explorit.org. Learn More…