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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


  • 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)


  • 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 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 activi…

  • 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 the …

  • 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 …

  • 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…

  • 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…

  • 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…

  • 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 sys…

  • 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 carryin…

  • 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 intro…

  • 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 …


    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…

  • 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 pollinator…

  • 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 sp…

  • 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 guid…

  •    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 i…

  • 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 e…

  • 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 s…

  • 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 s…


    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…

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  • 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...

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