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  • Middle School

    From Molecules to Organisms: Structures and Processes

Students who demonstrate understanding can:

Performance Expectations

  1. Conduct an investigation to provide evidence that living things are made of cells; either one cell or many different numbers and types of cells. MS-LS1-1

    Clarification Statement and Assessment Boundary
  2. Develop and use a model to describe the function of a cell as a whole and ways parts of cells contribute to the function. MS-LS1-2

    Clarification Statement and Assessment Boundary
  3. Use argument supported by evidence for how the body is a system of interacting subsystems composed of groups of cells. MS-LS1-3

    Clarification Statement and Assessment Boundary
  4. Use argument based on empirical evidence and scientific reasoning to support an explanation for how characteristic animal behaviors and specialized plant structures affect the probability of successful reproduction of animals and plants respectively. MS-LS1-4

    Clarification Statement and Assessment Boundary
  5. Construct a scientific explanation based on evidence for how environmental and genetic factors influence the growth of organisms. MS-LS1-5

    Clarification Statement and Assessment Boundary
  6. Construct a scientific explanation based on evidence for the role of photosynthesis in the cycling of matter and flow of energy into and out of organisms. MS-LS1-6

    Clarification Statement and Assessment Boundary
  7. Develop a model to describe how food is rearranged through chemical reactions forming new molecules that support growth and/or release energy as this matter moves through an organism. MS-LS1-7

    Clarification Statement and Assessment Boundary
  8. Gather and synthesize information that sensory receptors respond to stimuli by sending messages to the brain for immediate behavior or storage as memories. MS-LS1-8

    Clarification Statement and Assessment Boundary

A Peformance Expectation (PE) is what a student should be able to do to show mastery of a concept. Some PEs include a Clarification Statement and/or an Assessment Boundary. These can be found by clicking the PE for "More Info." By hovering over a PE, its corresponding pieces from the Science and Engineering Practices, Disciplinary Core Ideas, and Crosscutting Concepts will be highlighted.

Science and Engineering Practices

Developing and Using Models

Modeling in 6–8 builds on K–5 experiences and progresses to developing, using, and revising models to describe, test, and predict more abstract phenomena and design systems.

Planning and Carrying Out Investigations

Planning and carrying out investigations to answer questions or test solutions to problems in 6–8 builds on K–5 experiences and progresses to include investigations that use multiple variables and provide evidence to support explanations or design solutions.

Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions

Constructing explanations and designing solutions in 6–8 builds on K–5 experiences and progresses to include constructing explanations and designing solutions supported by multiple sources of evidence consistent with scientific ideas, principles, and theories.

Disciplinary Core Ideas

Crosscutting Concepts

By clicking on a specific Science and Engineering Practice, Disciplinary Core Idea, or Crosscutting Concept, you can find out more information on it. By hovering over one you can find its corresponding elements in the PEs.

Planning Curriculum

Common Core State Standards Connections

ELA/Literacy

  • RI.6.8 - Trace and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, distinguishing claims that are supported by reasons and evidence from claims that are not. (MS-LS1-3), (MS-LS1-4)
  • RST.6-8.1 - Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of science and technical texts. (MS-LS1-3), (MS-LS1-4), (MS-LS1-5), (MS-LS1-6)
  • RST.6-8.2 - Determine the central ideas or conclusions of a text; provide an accurate summary of the text distinct from prior knowledge or opinions. (MS-LS1-5), (MS-LS1-6)
  • SL.8.5 - Integrate multimedia and visual displays into presentations to clarify information, strengthen claims and evidence, and add interest. (MS-LS1-2), (MS-LS1-7)
  • WHST.6-8.1 - Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of science and technical texts. (MS-LS1-3), (MS-LS1-4)
  • WHST.6-8.2 - Write informative/explanatory texts, including the narration of historical events, scientific procedures/ experiments, or technical processes. (MS-LS1-5), (MS-LS1-6)
  • WHST.6-8.7 - Conduct short research projects to answer a question (including a self-generated question), drawing on several sources and generating additional related, focused questions that allow for multiple avenues of exploration. (MS-LS1-1)
  • WHST.6-8.8 - Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources, using search terms effectively; assess the credibility and accuracy of each source; and quote or paraphrase the data and conclusions of others while avoiding plagiarism and following a standard format for citation. (MS-LS1-8)
  • WHST.6-8.9 - Draw evidence from informational texts to support analysis reflection, and research. (MS-LS1-5), (MS-LS1-6)

Mathematics

  • 6.EE.C.9 - Use variables to represent two quantities in a real-world problem that change in relationship to one another; write an equation to express one quantity, thought of as the dependent variable, in terms of the other quantity, thought of as the independent variable. Analyze the relationship between the dependent and independent variables using graphs and tables, and relate these to the equation. (MS-LS1-1), (MS-LS1-2), (MS-LS1-3), (MS-LS1-6)
  • 6.SP.A.2 - Understand that a set of data collected to answer a statistical question has a distribution which can be described by its center, spread, and overall shape. (MS-LS1-4), (MS-LS1-5)
  • 6.SP.B.4 - Display numerical data in plots on a number line, including dot plots, histograms, and box plots. (MS-LS1-4), (MS-LS1-5)

Model Course Mapping

First Time Visitors

Resources & Lesson Plans

  • More resources added each week!
    A team of teacher curators is working to find, review, and vet online resources that support the standards. Check back often, as NSTA continues to add more targeted resources.
  • This resource is the fourth in a series of interactive simulations that help students make sense of human responses.  In this activity, students are experimenting to see which of their senses (sight, sound, or touch) has the fastest response tim ...

  • “Beetle Battles” is one lesson from the Data Nuggets website. Data Nuggets are lessons that originated from a partnership of teachers and scientists to address both the needs of scientists to share their research broadly and improve their ...

  • This is one activity out of the Project Learning Tree  Pre K-8 Environmental Education Activity Guide. Project Learning Tree® (PLT) is a program of the Sustainable Forestry Initiative that offers high-quality instructional materials for grad ...

  • This short (1:05 min) slow motion video shows a bat using echolocation to capture a moth.     This phenomenon could stimulate the following driving questions: How do bats locate their prey in the dark? How can bats t ...

  • Bat Echolocation is one of a series of Data Point resources from HHMI Biointeractive. Data Points engage student in analyzing and interpreting data from primary literature in the biological sciences.  The resources are intended to provide authen ...

  • Thermoregulation in Dinosaurs is one of a series of Data Point resources from HHMI Biointeractive. Data Points engage students in analyzing and interpreting data from primary literature in the biological sciences.  The resources are intended to ...

  •   This lesson provides two Claim-Evidence-Reasoning (CER) prompts that were developed through a collaboration between teachers at the Escobedo Middle School and the Boston Public Schools Science Department. The two prompts support student thi ...

  •   This is one of 30 lessons from the NSTA Press book Scientific Argumentation in Biology.  The lesson engages students in an argumentation cycle in which they evaluate three alternative claims regarding where most of the matter that make ...

  • This is one of 25 assessment probes from the book,” Uncovering Student Ideas in Life Science, Volume 1: 25 New Formative Assessment Probes”, by Page Keeley. All assessment probes in this collection are aligned to a particular science conc ...

  • This is one of 25 assessment probes from the book,” Uncovering Student Ideas in Life Science, Volume 1: 25 New Formative Assessment Probes”, by Page Keeley. All assessment probes in this collection are aligned to a particular science conc ...

  • The ability to explain the processes by which plants capture, store and use energy for growth and development is fundamental to understanding bioenergy. In this set of lessons, students investigate how plants harness and use different sources of ener ...

  •    The Plants unit (approximately 16 hours of instructional time), part of the Carbon TIME curriculum, builds on student learning about organic and inorganic materials in the Systems and Scale unit as well as the processes learned in t ...

  • The WISEngineering hydroponics project aims to help students develop their understanding of photosynthesis and cellular respiration. WISEngineering is a free online, engineering-design learning environment that scaffolds engineering design by guiding ...

  • Lab 14 Variation in Traits: How Do Beetle Traits Vary Within and Across Species?  is one lab from the NSTA Press book, Argument-Driven Inquiry in Life Science. This lab introduces students to the variation that occurs within beetle species and a ...

  • This is one of many lessons provided by the California Academy of Sciences whose mission is to bring science to life in the classroom.In this activity, students learn about plant reproduction and use real data on flowers and the pollinators that visi ...

  •   This Formative Assessment Probe from The “Uncovering Student Ideas” series is a great way to engage the students to consider how plants get energy and what would be considered “food” for a plant.  Used at the st ...

  • This data analysis activity includes all supporting materials including color photos of leaf sets that can be analyzed by students.  The leaf sets show the results (including controls) of what happens to ivy leaves under a variety of conditions, ...

  • Lab 4:  Cell Structure, is one of a series of lab investigations for the middle school student from the book, "Argument-Driven Inquiry in Life Science:  Lab Investigations for Grades 6-8".  Students are introduced to The ...

  • Movement of Molecules Into and Out of Cells is one of a series of activities from "Scientific Argumentation in Biology:  30 Classroom Activities.  Movement of Molecules engages students in planning and carrying out investigations, ...

  • In this lesson, students become bioengineers, trying to effectively and safely restore “blood flow” through a model clogged artery. Background work, including dissection ideas, provides students with an understanding of circulatory system ...

  • This activity demonstrates the effect of changes in the environment on the growth of plants. The plants are placed in environments such as high salinity, cold, heat, or drought and observe the different reactions (growth) of the plants to these condi ...

  • Animation that teaches how plant-based foods get their starch and how humans use the starches to make energy. Site also has limited follow up questions and other information on the vocabulary used. This is a great resource for showing the dynamics o ...

  • Students design and conduct simple experiments using elodea (aquatic plant sold in pet stores) and Bromthymol blue to determine whether plants consume or release carbon dioxide in the process of photosynthesis. Students will record their data which w ...

  • In this activity, the learner explores various ways in which organisms reproduce. The learner discusses the role that reproduction plays in the cycle of life. By watching short videos and participating in follow-up discussion: 1. They observe ...

  • This online unit explores the theme of the National Zoo's Pollinarium exhibition: how plant and animal partners interact to accomplish pollination. It is a series of three lessons that allow the learner to explore and develop an understanding of ...

  • This is a sequence of lessons that have been developed to help middle school students learn and argue about the core concept of how a plant root grows at the cellular level. The first part of the sequence begins with a corn seed germination activity ...

  • Do you have a great resource to share with the community? Click here.
  • This is a set of multiple choice items developed by AAAS Project 2061 focused on the topic of cells. The items are different from many multiple choice science test items in that they assess students’ conceptual understanding (not just facts and defin...

  • Here's another activity you can use in your classroom to teach observing skills

  • This activity is written directly to students. This means that you can use it as a self-directed activity should you so choose.

  • In this series of games, your students will learn about cells and the vital functions they serve. The Cells and Life learning objective — based on NGSS and state standards — delivers improved student engagement and academic performance in your classr...

  • In this series of games, your students will learn about the different organelles in the cell and the functions they perform. The Parts of the Cell learning objective — based on NGSS and state standards — delivers improved student engagement and acade...

  • In this series of games, your students will learn the differences between plant and animal cells. The Parts of the Cell – Plants vs. Animals learning objective — based on NGSS and state standards — delivers improved student engagement and academic pe...

  • In this series of games, your students will learn about the behaviors animals use to raise their chances of reproducing. The Animal Reproduction Strategies learning objective — based on NGSS and state standards — delivers improved student engagement ...

  • In this series of games, your students will learn about the vehicles and processes of plant reproduction. The Plant Reproduction Strategies learning objective — based on NGSS and state standards — delivers improved student engagement and academic per...

  • In this series of games, your students will learn about plants’ growth and development and the factors that affect it. The Plant Growth: Effect of Genes and Environment learning objective — based on NGSS and state standards — delivers improved studen...

  • In this series of games, your students will learn how plants convert energy to nourish themselves. The Photosynthesis learning objective — based on NGSS and state standards — delivers improved student engagement and academic performance in your class...

  • In this series of games, your students will learn how organisms digest food to get the nutrients they need. The Conversion of Food Into Matter and Energy learning objective — based on NGSS and state standards — delivers improved student engagement an...

  • In this series of games, your students will learn how organisms respond to stimuli from their environment. The Body’s Information Processing System learning objective — based on NGSS and state standards — delivers improved student engagement and acad...

  • In this series of games, your students will learn about the components and results of photosynthesis. The Chemical Reactions in Photosynthesis learning objective — based on NGSS and state standards — delivers improved student engagement and academic ...

  • In this series of games, your students will learn about the components and results of cellular respiration. The Chemical Reactions in Cellular Respiration learning objective — based on NGSS and state standards — delivers improved student engagement a...

  • Middle School investigative lesson to discover body systems and chemical reactions that occur in the body to provide energy

  • In this activity, students examine how to grow plants the most efficiently. They imagine that they are designing a biofuels production facility and need to know how to efficiently grow plants to use in this facility. As a means of solving this design...

  • In this experiment, students observe a natural process that removes carbon dioxide (CO2) from Earth's atmosphere. This process is a part of the carbon cycle and results in temperature suitable for life. Students learn that the carbon cycle is a fund...

  • This activity introduces students to different forms of energy, energy transformations, energy storage, and the flow of energy through systems. Students learn that most energy can be traced back to nuclear fusion on the sun.

  • Two simple experiments/demonstrations show the role of plants in mitigating the acidification caused when CO2 is dissolved in water.

  • A sequence of five short animated videos that explain the properties of carbon in relationship to global warming, narrated by Robert Krulwich from NPR.

  • This video follows biologist Gretchen Hofmann as she studies the effects of ocean acidification on sea urchin larvae.

  • This video focuses on the conifer forest in Alaska to explore the carbon cycle and how the forest responds to rising atmospheric carbon dioxide. Topics addressed in the video include wildfires, reflectivity, and the role of permafrost in the global c...

  • This figure, the famous Keeling Curve, shows the history of atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations as directly measured at Mauna Loa, Hawaii. This curve is an essential piece of evidence that shows the increased greenhouse gases that cause recent ...

  • This interactive animation focuses on the carbon cycle and includes embedded videos and captioned images to provide greater clarification and detail of the cycle than would be available by a single static visual alone.

  • This NASA video explores the relationship between climate and agriculture. The video discusses the variability of climate impacts in different regions, as well as the effects of population growth and higher demands for food in areas that already str...

  • This video segment from 'Earth: The Operators' Manual' explores how we know that today’s increased levels of CO2 are caused by humans burning fossil fuels and not by some natural process, such as volcanic out-gassing. Climate scientist Richard Alle...

  • This NASA animation shows the levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide over different time scales. Viewers can compare the last 400,000 years, last 1000 years, and last 25 years. The data come from the Lake Vostok ice cores (400,000 BC to about 4000 BC)...

  • This PBS video shows how Klaus Lackner, a geophysicist at Columbia University, is trying to tackle the problem of rising atmospheric CO2 levels by using an idea inspired by his daughter's 8th-grade science fair project. The video examines the idea of...

  • This video introduces phytoplankton - the base of the marine food web, the source of half of the oxygen on Earth, and an important remover of CO2 from the atmosphere. The video also explains how satellites are used to monitor phytoplankton and how wa...

  • This animated slideshow introduces biodiesel as a fuel alternative. With concern about the use of petroleum-based fuels at an all-time high, biodiesel is experiencing a popularity surge. And algae—otherwise known to some as pond scum— are grabbin...

  • This video segment from the Earth Operators Manual summarizes how fossil fuels are made, provides a comparison of how long it takes to store energy in coal, oil and natural gas, and discusses how fast we're using them.

  • This video describes the foundation Plant for the Planet, a foundation created by a 9-year-old German boy, Felix. This foundation has planted more than 500,000 trees in Germany, which he says help sequester carbon and reduce greenhouse gas emissions...

  • In this activity, students learn how carbon cycles through the Earth system by playing an online game.

  • This interactive follows carbon as it moves through various components of the carbon cycle.

  • This interactive graphic shows the different components of the ocean biological pump, i.e., how carbon in the form of either plankton or particles moves into the ocean's depths. The diagram illustrates the processes at the surface, 0-100 meters, 1...

  • In this video a scientist explains how DNA extracted from ancient tree remains provides insights about how trees/plants have adapted, over time, to changes in CO2 in the atmosphere. Her lab research investigates changes in plant genotypes under expe...

  • This narrated slide presentation shows the carbon cycle. It looks at various parts of this biogeochemical sequence by examining carbon reservoirs and how carbon is exchanged among them.

  • This video describes the work of scientists who are studying the precise combination of trees that would be most effective in reducing the level of greenhouse gases in the air around Syracuse, NY. This is a pilot study that will serve as a model for ...

  • In this video from the Polaris Project Website, American and Siberian university students describe their research on permafrost.

  • In this video segment, two students discuss the greenhouse effect and visit with research scientists at Biosphere 2 in Arizona, who research the effects of global climate change on organisms in a controlled facility. Their current research (as of 200...

  • This video segment demonstrates carbon dioxide's role in the greenhouse effect and explains how increasing concentrations of C02 in the atmosphere may be contributing to global warming. Video includes an unusual demonstration of C02's heat-absorbing ...

  • This video segment examines ethanol, a cleaner-burning fuel alternative to gasoline, and the efforts to produce it more efficiently.

  • In this video, adapted from KUAC-TV and the Geophysical Institute at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, viewers learn how one-celled organisms in permafrost may be contributing to greenhouse gas levels and global warming.

  • This interactive exposes students to Earth's atmospheric gases of oxygen, carbon dioxide, and ozone. As the user manipulates the interactive to increase or decrease the concentration of each gas, explanations and images are provided that explain and ...

  • This video features the Prairie Heating and CO2 Enrichment Experiment near Cheyenne WY, where scientists expose mixed-grass prairie to higher temperatures and CO2 concentrations to study impacts on the prairie for late in this century.

  • This carbon calculator, developed by the EPA, guides students in calculating their carbon footprint and then using that information to make decisions about how to reduce their carbon emissions.

  • This article and slide show from the New York Times, features several scientists from the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, who study the effects of thawing permafrost in Alaska.

  • This is a series of 5 guided-inquiry activities that examine data and models that climate scientists use to attempt to answer the question of Earth's future climate.

  • In this activity, students conduct a life cycle assessment of energy used and produced in ethanol production, and a life cycle assessment of carbon dioxide used and produced in ethanol production.

  • This is a hands-on inquiry activity using zip-lock plastic bags that allows students to observe the process of fermentation and the challenge of producing ethanol from cellulosic sources. Students are asked to predict outcomes and check their observa...

  • This video highlights the work of climate scientists in the Amazon who research the relationship between deforestation, construction of new dams, and increased amounts of greenhouse gases being exchanged between the biosphere and the atmosphere.

  • This video illustrates how one community developed and implemented a sustainable solution to help keep stream water cool enough for healthy fish. Their solution has the added benefit of removing CO2 from the atmosphere.

  • In this activity, students use a physical model to learn the basics of photosynthesis and respiration within the carbon cycle.

  • This short video is an excerpt from the longer video Acid Test: The Global Challenge of Ocean Acidification, produced by the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC). This short version summarizes the science of ocean acidification as well as the so...

  • In this activity, students explore the basic living requirements of algae (phytoplankton)through hands-on experience and an interactive game. Students investigate what algal biofuels are, how they are made, where they can grow, and, most importantly,...

  • This animated video outlines Earth's energy. The video presents a progression from identifying the different energy systems to the differences between external and internal energy sources and how that energy is cycled and used.

  • Two short, narrated animations about carbon dioxide and Earth's temperature are presented on this webpage. The first animation shows the rise in atmospheric CO2 levels, human carbon emissions, and global temperature rise of the past 1,000 years; the ...

  • Interactive visualization that provides a basic overview of the Earth's carbon reservoirs and amount of carbon stored in each, CO2 transport among atmosphere, hydrosphere, geosphere, and biosphere, and a graph comparing global temp (deg C) and atmos...

  • This high-resolution narrated video shows levels and movements of CO2 globally through the course of a year.

  • This narrated animation displays three separate graphs of carbon emissions by humans, atmospheric concentrations of CO2, and average global temperature as it has changed over the last 1000 years. The final slide overlays the three graphs to show how...

  • Students are presented with a guide to rain garden construction in an activity that culminates the unit and pulls together what they have learned and prepared in materials during the three previous associated activities. They learn about the four ver...

  • Students build small-sized prototypes of mountain rescue litters—rescue baskets for use in hard-to-get-to places, such as mountainous terrain—to evacuate an injured person (modeled by a potato) from the backcountry. Groups design their litters within...

  • NSTA 2018 Health in Our Hands PPT

  • Middle school is full of relationship drama. So is science! This session introduced new, free modules that help students understand relationships between humans and germs in terms of relative size, inter-dependency in ecosystems, and the eternal stru...

Planning Curriculum gives connections to other areas of study for easier curriculum creation.