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Science and Engineering Practices

 Science and Engineering Practices

Are you looking for a way to teach the 8 science and engineering practices to your students?

The three dimensions of Science include the Science and Engineering Practices, the Crosscutting Concepts, and the Disciplinary Core Ideas.

The Science and Engineering Practices for NGSS and Utah SEEd are what students and scientists do in science. In other words, the Science and Engineering Practices (SEP) are the behaviors of scientists and students. For a few of the SEP, there is a slight difference between science and engineering. Note that the number one Asking Questions for Science and Defining Solutions for Engineering are different. Also, number six, Constructing explanations for Science, and designing solutions for Engineering are slightly different.

The Science and Engineering Practices are What Students Do In Science

NGSS Science and Engineering Practices

 The Eight Science and Engineering Practices

1. Asking questions or defining problems: Students engage in asking testable questions and defining problems to pursue understandings of phenomena. For a few of the SEP, there is a slight difference between the science and engineering practices.

Using phenomena

Why does a rubber band snapping on a cup make a sound?

For Science: Science begins with a question about a phenomenon such as “Why is the sky blue?” or “What causes cancer?” A basic practice of the scientist is the ability to formulate empirically answerable questions about phenomena to establish what is already known, and to determine what questions have yet to be satisfactorily answered.

For Engineering: Engineering begins with a problem that needs to be solved, such as “How can we reduce the nation’s dependence on fossil fuels? or “What can be done to reduce a particular disease? or “How can we improve the fuel efficiency of automobiles? A basic practice of engineers is to ask questions to clarify the problem, determine criteria for a successful solution, and identify constraints.

2. Developing and using models: Students develop physical, conceptual, and other models to represent relationships, explain mechanisms, and predict outcomes.

developing and using models in science

Making a model of a plant cell.

Science often involves the construction and use of models and simulations to help develop explanations about natural phenomena. Models make it possible to go beyond observables and simulate a world not yet seen. Models enable predictions of the form “if…then… therefore” to be made in order to test hypothetical explanations. Students also need to evaluate models. What is the limitation of this model? How is it different than the real world?

3. Planning and carrying out investigations: Students plan and conduct scientific investigations in order to test, revise, or develop explanations. 

planning and carrying out an investigation

Students use easy to find household materials to plan and carry out an investigation.

Scientific investigations may be conducted in the field or in the laboratory. A major practice of scientists is planning and carrying out systematic investigations that require clarifying what counts as data and in experiments identifying variables.

4. Analyzing and interpreting data: Students analyze various types of data in order to create valid interpretations or to assess claims/conclusions. 

Analyzing and Interpreting data

Students look at data and analyze it.

Scientific investigations produce data that must be analyzed in order to derive meaning. Because data usually do not speak for themselves, scientists use a range of tools—including tabulation, graphical interpretation, visualization, and statistical analysis—to identify the significant features and patterns in the data. Sources of error are identified and the degree of certainty calculated. Modern technology makes the collection of large data sets much easier providing secondary sources for analysis. Scientists must analyze the data to get meaning from it.

5. Using mathematics and computational thinking: Students use fundamental tools in science to compute relationships and interpret results. 

mathematical and computational thinking NGSS

Students will use this drag and drop feature to create a bar graph.

See how the bar graph online tool works for mathematical and computational thinking.

In science, mathematics and computation are fundamental tools for representing physical variables and their relationships. They are used for a range of tasks such as constructing simulations; statistically analyzing data; and recognizing, expressing, and applying quantitative relationships. Mathematical and computational approaches enable the prediction of the behavior of physical systems along with the testing of such predictions. Moreover, statistical techniques are also invaluable for identifying significant patterns and establishing correlational relationships. Students use mathematics and computational thinking in all kinds of science lab activities as well as engineering. 

6. Constructing explanations and designing solutions: Students construct explanations about the world and design solutions to problems using observations that are consistent with current evidence and scientific principles. 

For Science: The goal of science is the construction of theories that provide explanatory accounts of the material world. A theory becomes accepted when it has multiple independent lines of empirical evidence, greater explanatory power, breadth of phenomena it accounts for, and has explanatory coherence and parsimony.

Designing a balloon-powered car

What design would work best for a balloon-powered car?

For Engineering: The goal of engineering design is a systematic solution to problems that are based on scientific knowledge and models of the material world. Each proposed solution results from a process of balancing competing criteria of desired functions, technical feasibility, cost, safety, aesthetics, and compliance with legal requirements. Usually, there is no one best solution, but rather a range of solutions. The optimal choice depends on how well the proposed solution meets criteria and constraints.

7. Engaging in argument from evidence: Students support their best explanations with lines of reasoning using evidence to defend their claims. 

making an argument based on evidence

Students watch the video and then make an argument based on evidence.

In science, reasoning and argument are essential for clarifying the strengths and weaknesses of a line of evidence and for identifying the best explanation for a natural phenomenon. Scientists must defend their explanations, formulate evidence based on a solid foundation of data, examine their understanding in light of the evidence and comments by others, and collaborate with peers in searching for the best explanation for the phenomena being investigated. Students support their arguments with evidence.

8. Obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information: Students obtain, evaluate, and communicate information as well as derive meaning from scientific information or presented evidence using appropriate scientific language. They communicate their findings clearly and persuasively in a variety of ways including written text, graphs, diagrams, charts, tables, or orally.

Obtaining, evaluating and communicating information

Students will obtain information, evaluate it, and communicate their ideas.

Science cannot advance if scientists are unable to communicate their findings clearly and persuasively or learn about the findings of others. A major practice of science is thus to communicate ideas and the results of inquiry—orally; in writing; with the use of tables, diagrams, graphs, and equations; and by engaging in extended discussions with peers. Science requires the ability to derive meaning from scientific texts such as papers, the internet, symposia, or lectures to evaluate the scientific validity of the information thus acquired and to integrate that information into proposed explanations. For more on Utah SEEd see this article. Utah SEEd

Science and Engineering Practices

For more on Science and Engineering Practices: Click Here

Both NGSS and Utah SEEd use the same 8 Science and Engineering Practices.

The eight practices of science and engineering that the Framework identifies as essential for all students to learn and describes in detail are listed below:

1. Asking questions (for science) and defining problems (for engineering)

2. Developing and using models

3. Planning and carrying out investigations

4. Analyzing and interpreting data

5. Using mathematics and computational thinking

6. Constructing explanations (for science) and designing solutions (for engineering)

7. Engaging in argument from evidence

8. Obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information

Science and Engineering Practices

Are you looking for an engaging activity to introduce and review the science and engineering practices with upper elementary students? Look no further.  This online unit is self-directed and designed for distance learning. Students will be introduced to each Science and Engineering Practice and then they will have a chance to practice each one with interactive Google Slides, videos, drag and drop activities, and even hands-on activities using simple household materials. No prep for teacher…just share in Google Classroom.

Science and Engineering Practices for Elementary Students

Science and Engineering Practices Distance Education Unit

Distance Learning Unit for Science and Engineering Practices NGSS
Drag and Drop Activities for NGSS Science Elementary
Science and Engineering Practices NGSS Online Unit
Please visit my store for more great NGSS science and Utah SEEd ideas!
Science and Engineering Practices

Also available in a bundle with the crosscutting concepts unit….


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