FOSS Forward Thinking: Our Vision for the NGSS

FOSS Newsletter Staff | March 13, 2018

The FOSS Vision

When the Full Option Science System (FOSS) began, the founders envisioned a science curriculum that was enjoyable, logical, and intuitive for teachers, and stimulating, provocative, and informative for students. Achieving this vision was informed by research in cognitive science, learning theory, and critical study of effective practice. The modular design of the FOSS product allowed users to select topics that aligned with district or state learning objectives, or simply resonated with their perception of comprehensive and reasonable science instruction. The original design of the FOSS Program was comprehensive in terms of coverage. FOSS was designed to provide real and meaningful student experience with important scientific ideas and to nurture developmentally appropriate knowledge of the objects, organisms, systems, and principles governing, the natural world.

The FOSS Next Generation Program

Student working with soil

But the developers never envisioned FOSS to be a static curriculum, and now the Full Option Science System has evolved into a fully realized 21st century science program with authentic connection to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). The FOSS science curriculum is a comprehensive science program, featuring instructional guidance, student equipment, student reading materials, digital resources, and an embedded assessment system. The FOSS philosophy has always taken very seriously the teaching of good, comprehensive, accurate, science content using the methods of inquiry to advance that science knowledge. But the Framework for K-12 Science Education, on which the NGSS are based has allowed us to articulate our mission in a more coherent manner, using the vocabulary established by the authors of the Framework. The FOSS instructional design now strives to

  1. communicate the disciplinary core ideas (content) of science, while
  2. guiding and encouraging students to engage in or exercise the science and engineering practices (inquiry methods) to develop knowledge of the disciplinary core ideas, and
  3. help students apprehend the crosscutting concepts (themes that unite core ideas, overarching concepts) that connect the learning experiences within a discipline and bridge meaningfully across disciplines as students gain more and more knowledge of the natural world.

The NGSS describe the knowledge and skills we expect our students to be able to demonstrate after completing their science instruction experience. The expectations are demanding and include no small measure of ability to communicate scientific knowledge. The ability to communicate complex ideas assumes that students have had a significant amount of experience and practice building coherent explanations, defending claims, and organizing and presenting reasoned arguments in the context of their science curriculum. This is where scientific inquiry encounters language arts. FOSS draws on both the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for English Language Arts and research data regarding the productive use of student science notebooks. FOSS developers realize that the most effective science program must seamlessly integrate science instruction goals and language arts skills. Science is one of the most engaging and productive arenas for introducing and exercising language arts skills: vocabulary, nonfiction (informational) reading, cause-and-effect relationships, on and on.

FOSS is strongly grounded in the realities of the classroom and the interests and experiences of the learners. The content in FOSS is teachable and learnable over multiple grade levels as students increase in their abilities to reason about and integrate complex ideas within and between disciplines.

FOSS is crafted with a structured, yet flexible, teaching philosophy that embraces the much-heralded 21st century skills; collaborative teamwork, critical thinking, and problem solving. The FOSS curriculum design promotes a classroom culture that allows both teachers and students to assume prominent roles in the management of the learning experience.

More students working with soil

FOSS is built on the assumptions that understanding of core scientific knowledge and how science functions is essential for citizenship, that all teachers can teach science, and that all students can learn science. Formative assessment in FOSS creates a community of reflective practice. Teachers and students make up the community and establish norms of mutual support, trust, respect, and collaboration. The goal of the community is that everyone will demonstrate progress and will learn and grow.