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Balanced Objects

January/February 2024: Crosscutting Concepts


A Framework for K–12 Science Education (NRC 2012) has provided us with important conceptual shifts in how students learn and why it is essential to prepare students to be able to not only “know” science but to be able to “do” science. Across the country, many states have adopted the Next Generation Science Standards or created closely aligned versions. 

Teachers have been working with disciplinary core ideas (the “what”) and the science and engineering practices (the “how”) and have productively integrated them into their teaching practice. But what about the crosscutting concepts? Many teachers need help with how and when to fit them into the learning. To others, these remain a mystery, often left out or tacked on to the end of lessons.

The crosscutting concepts have been referred to as structured reflection lenses used to help explain phenomena, as application points that allow students to study phenomena from different perspectives, or as thinking tools to understand phenomena. According to The Framework, “Crosscutting concepts have value because they provide students with connections and intellectual tools that are related across the differing areas of disciplinary content and can enrich their application of practices and their understanding of core ideas” — NRC 2012, p. 233.

Let’s move the crosscutting concepts from being the left out, forgotten, or often overlooked dimension to being a powerful addition to your students’ three-dimensional science toolkit.


Article suggestions for this issue include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Explain how you use the crosscutting concepts to help students make sense of various content to develop a more robust, long-lasting understanding of science and engineering.

  • Share how focusing on using the crosscutting concepts in tried-and-true lessons has elevated learning and increased student engagement and proficiency.

  • Describe a lesson where the crosscutting concepts allowed students to engage more deeply and metacognitively in their shared learning.

  • Identify how crosscutting concepts can be coupled or bundled to increase student attention to the causal relationships in phenomena.

  • Focusing on assessment, share how formative assessment using the language of the crosscutting concepts can help students make sense of phenomena and allow them to provide more detailed, connected responses.

Nov/Dec 2023: Making Science Accessible for ALL



How are we reducing barriers to access and finding ways to make science learning relevant, engaging, and accessible for our students? When we emphasize building accessible learning spaces, with varied learning materials and experiences, with opportunities for communication, we help create a more inclusive, supportive classroom environment for all students. We can help reduce social stigmas and marginalization of students and provide learning opportunities where all students are valued members of the learning community.  

Whether we are addressing physical classroom configurations, modifications that allow increased access, or strategies that reduce barriers and emphasize student engagement, we are creating more equitable and inclusive learning communities.

Article suggestions for this issue include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Share how science classroom environments and routines can be structured to be more accessible and inclusive.

  • Describe a science or STEM lesson focusing on effective differentiation strategies to increase student engagement.

  • Considering students’ social-emotional development, share high-quality science and STEM resources to support young learners’ emotional needs.

  • Additionally, consider sharing strategies for developing and implementing such things as inclusive field trips, interactive technologies, lesson modifications for varying ability levels, and creating safe, supportive classrooms that honor all learners.

  • Describe how we can encourage students with exceptionalities to consider science and science-related careers.

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