Grades 6 - 8 Model Science Curriculum
The 2022 edition of the New Jersey Department of Education’s (NJDOE) Model Science Curriculum for grades 6–8 builds on the success of the first edition. The NJDOE’s goal for this edition is to ensure that all educators in grades 6–8 have access to a free, coherent, rigorous, research-based set of instructional materials that will support all students in meeting the vision for science literacy described in A Framework for K-12 Science Education (2012) and the New Jersey Student Learning Standards for Science (NJSLS–S). The NJDOE collaborated with OpenSciEd to develop the instructional and professional learning materials for the courses.
Each course will engage students with multiple opportunities to engage with disciplinary core ideas (DCIs), science and engineering practices (SEPs), and crosscutting concepts (CCCs) targeted in the performance expectations, with scaffolding faded over the course of the year in each dimension. The Scope and Sequence for the courses was the result of unpacking performance expectations and the necessary mathematical proficiencies necessary for some concepts.
Figure 1: Scope and Sequence for Grades 6-8 Model Science Curriculum
Accessible Version of Figure 1: Grades 6 - 8 Unit Map
Contemporary thinking about science learning and a vision of the classroom are embodied in the OpenSciEd Design Specifications Overview. Specifications describe what we want science learning to look like for every student, and therefore guide the materials development process and implementation support. The topics addressed range from equitable science instruction and the centrality of asking questions to meeting the practical needs and constraints of a classroom. These specifications are based on A Framework for K-12 Science Education and the resulting New Jersey Student Learning Standards for Science, including the emphasis on three-dimensional learning that integrates science and engineering practices, crosscutting concepts, and disciplinary core ideas. The complete Middle School Design Specifications are also available.
All of the OpenSciEd units are designed as Open Educational Resources that are licensed as CC-BY-4.0. OpenSciEd provides these units freely to all users, including commercial vendors. The freely available materials are available at the OpenSciEd website.
Please note that there are a few commercial vendors who are taking advantage of the CC-BY-4.0 licensing and are selling their versions of the OpenSciEd resources to school districts. The New Jersey Department of Education is neither endorsing nor promoting the use of the commercial versions of these materials.
The following links provide access to important resources that you will need to implement the Model Science Curriculum for Grades 6 – 8.
Professional Learning Resources
The Instructional Model
The materials are anchored in students’ own experiences and questions to build disciplinary core ideas and crosscutting concepts through an iterative process of questioning, investigating, modeling, and constructing explanations. Students experience learning as making sense of ideas from their own perspectives. In order to do this, student learning is motivated by making sense of phenomena which lead to iterative cycles of investigating phenomena, refining questions, improving explanations and models with new evidence, and further questioning. Students are positioned as collaborators who work as a community to figure something out about the natural or designed world. Units are organized into a coherent storyline and fit into the scope and sequence with explicit connections.
Equitable Science Instruction for All Students
The materials guide teachers in implementing equitable science instruction for all students, with particular attention to student groups who have historically been underserved in science. Equitable instructional practices are central to the material’s design, not add-on strategies that need to be deployed in the presence of certain students. Instructional materials are flexible enough to be adapted to fit teachers’ and students’ local contexts. By design, these materials relate to the interests, identities, and experiences of students and the goals and needs of their communities. The instructional materials support equitable participation in science and engineering practices in ways that are culturally sustaining, leverage students’ full linguistic repertoires (multiple languages and registers), and value and promote multi-modal performances beyond written or spoken forms of expression.
Assessment to Inform Teaching and Learning
The assessments are designed in tandem with the instructional materials so that evidence gathered through assessment is a seamless element of instruction. Well-designed assessment opportunities support evidence gathering for a wide range of purposes, including formative tasks that occur during instruction, embedded tasks with rubrics that support the interpretation and use of student ideas to inform instruction, and summative tasks. Assessments involve students in analyzing their own and their peers’ ideas and considering how to use those ideas as they move forward in making sense of phenomena. Assessment opportunities anticipate the wide range of backgrounds and experiences that students bring to the science classroom, and assessment tasks are dexterous enough to capture students’ initial ideas at the start of the unit and how these ideas develop as students integrate information and evidence from unit activities.
Educative features are the elements of the teacher guidance materials that promote teacher learning and support the wide range of teachers who use the materials. The educative features help teachers find the support they need, when they need it. Teachers are guided in teaching toward a NJSLS-S vision through the use of instructional materials that are effective and efficient, and that support teachers and practices and crosscutting concepts to the practice of planning and carrying out investigations.
Developing and Using Models, Constructing Explanations, and Designing Solutions
The materials, models are positioned as intellectual tools used to reason with and develop explanations for phenomena. This intellectual work happens through negotiation between students, whether in small groups or in a whole group setting, and important learning happens in the discussions students have while deciding how to construct or revise models, or how to explain a phenomenon or design a solution. Students have multiple opportunities to return to their ideas to revise, discard, add to, or expand them as they gain new evidence from investigations and other sources. Modeling and explanation are collaborative endeavors that advance the understanding of the members of the classroom community, which means that the work of the community is made public, and students have opportunities to share, critique and build on one another’s ideas.
Analyzing and Interpreting Data and Using Mathematical and Computational Thinking
The materials provide students with ample opportunities to use data analysis and computational thinking as they develop explanations and design solutions. Often when exploring a natural event we are interested in how much, how fast, or how frequently something has happened, and how it may happen in the future. Both the practices of “Analyzing and interpreting data” and “Using mathematics and computational thinking” offer specialized ways for describing the observations made during investigations.
Instructional materials focus on students’ ability to contextualize data, mathematical models, and simulations, and help students develop their statistical, mathematical, and computational toolkits.
Arguing from Evidence and Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating Information
The materials create opportunities for students’ home experiences and ways of knowing to be a productive part of the classroom sense-making by showing the ways argumentation and communication vary across individuals, classrooms, out of school contexts, and disciplines. Students learn more when engaged in meaningful forms of argumentation and communication; thus the instructional materials provide structured opportunities for students to participate in arguing and communicating about elements of their work for the authentic purpose of explaining a phenomenon or designing a solution, at increasing levels of sophistication over time. Activities attend to the linguistic demands inherent in arguing and communicating across productive (writing and speaking) and receptive (reading and listening) language functions.
Crosscutting concepts are ways of understanding scientific concepts as they relate to real- world phenomena and are central to robust and applicable science understanding. In OpenSciEd materials, crosscutting concepts continually develop as students explore, explain, and make sense of phenomena at increasing levels of sophistication within units, across units, and across grades. Units are designed so that students experience the continual integration of crosscutting concepts in ways that they recognize are relevant and useful to the context and activities of the unit. Students learn to use consistent language of crosscutting concepts when discussing phenomena and engaging in science practices.
Classroom routines are structures that students engage in repeatedly over the course of a year and across multiple years. The instructional materials include structured routines with explicit goals to serve as scaffolds for students to learn sophisticated scientific and engineering practices, and to establish and maintain an engaging, productive, and equitable classroom culture through norms and expectations about behavior and social interaction. Routines help draw out student questions and identification of problems and use them to guide the ongoing science work of the class, support students in tracking progress toward the unit’s learning goal as well as the current explanations, models, or designs, and help students develop gapless explanations and discuss how to move from one lesson to the next. Teachers are guided in developing and maintaining classroom norms to support student engagement in the science and engineering practices through productive talk.
Integration of English Language Arts and Mathematics
The units integrate with English Language Arts through the literacy practices of reading, writing, and communication, and with mathematics, to develop and reinforce important science ideas and practices. Instructional materials support students in strengthening their literacy and mathematics practices and thinking, and in demonstrating the importance of these practices for science.
Meeting Practical Needs and Constraints of Public Education
To bring about real and lasting transformation of science instruction, OpenSciEd materials are designed to be practical and realistic for educators to implement. Instructional materials help teachers plan and implement coherent three-dimensional learning experiences for all students in every activity, and include meaningful optional learning opportunities after specific points in a unit to motivate students to think, talk, and explore outside of school. Teachers are guided in using student work for grades while also providing meaningful feedback to students about their learning. Computational technology supports three-dimensional science learning, within school constraints. Students are provided with the greatest possible opportunity to engage in scientific and engineering practices with appropriate tools and techniques, within school constraints.
Resources for Staying Grounded While Teaching Remote
The Remote Learning Resources linked below contain detailed information about adapting the OpenSciEd routines to a remote learning environment. They also provide a variety of approaches to remote learning, including options for students who do not have internet access.
- Fostering Productive Norms
- Anchor Phenomenon Routine
- Navigation Routine
- Supporting Discourse
- Problematizing Routine
Guidance on Modifying Instructional Units
The instructional materials are an Open Educational Resource with the explicit goal of supporting the adaptation and customization of the program for different goals and circumstances. Teacher materials include guidance on possible modification to the units, the implications of potential changes, and the rationale behind the sequence and design of activities that will allow others to adapt, modify, and customize the materials in a way that still achieves the goals of the program. Teacher materials also provide educators with information about pacing, including when activities can be compressed or extended.
The resources provided on this webpage are for informational purposes only. All resources must meet the New Jersey Department of Education’s (NJDOE) accessibility guidelines. Currently, the NJDOE aims to conform to Level AA of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.1). However, the NJDOE does not guarantee that linked external sites conform to Level AA of the WCAG 2.1. Neither NJDOE nor its officers, employees or agents specifically endorse, recommend or favor these resources or the organizations that created them. Please note that the NJDOE has not reviewed or approved the materials related to the programs.