FOSS Middle School: NGSS Earth Science Strand Available Now!

Jessica Penchos, FOSS Middle School Coordinator, Lawrence Hall of Science
September 11, 2014 | Program News

FOSS Earth Science Strand

Within this sequence, there is flexibility. As an example, if your school or district chooses to focus on the crosscutting concept of energy at 7th grade, you might choose to place the Weather and Water Course, Second Edition at 7th grade and move the Earth History Course, Second Edition to 6th grade. The FOSS curriculum developers and sales representatives are always happy to talk with you about your school or district situation to figure out the best arrangement to meet your needs.

For existing Weather and Water Course users, it will be a smooth conversion to update your program. And for those looking for a new resource to connect with the National Research Council's A Framework for K–12 Science Education: Practices, Crosscutting Concepts, and Core Ideas (2012) and the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) performance expectations, this course will meet your needs.

Here is a glimpse of the major components of Weather and Water, Second Edition.

  • The course consists of ten investigations that engage students in collecting weather data and learning about physical processes that determine the weather and climate, including energy transfer and phase change. The investigations have been reorganized and expanded to better explore global climate factors, ocean currents, and climate change.
  • In Investigations 1–3, students begin to collect weather data and learn about the properties of air to explain phenomena in the atmosphere. They connect these ideas to explain the weather phenomenon of wind.
  • In Investigations 4–6, students explore energy transfer through convection, radiation, and conduction. This helps them understand the Sun's differential heating of earth materials, including the atmosphere, and how that affects wind.
  • In Investigation 5, students compare weather data from different locations on Earth, and differentiate for the first time between weather and climate. They learn that different locations on Earth receive different amounts of solar radiation depending in part on the season and explore how this affects climate.
  • In Investigation 7, the focus shifts from air flow to the effects of water in the air. Students explore humidity, phase changes (condensation and evaporation), and energy transfers associated with these changes.
  • In Investigation 8, students pull together all the physical science concepts they've learned in the course to explain weather. They interpret radiosonde data and weather maps to prepare and deliver a TV-style weather report.
  • Investigation 9 focuses on water resources on Earth. Students explore human water use, the water cycle, and ocean currents. They investigate ocean currents as factors that affect climate.
  • In Investigation 10, students refine the distinction between weather and climate and are introduced to the concept of climate change. They explore the relationship between greenhouse gases and global average temperature, and consider implications of climate change. Students consider human activities that contribute to greenhouse gas concentration, and those that may mitigate greenhouse gas production and reduce the impact of climate change.

Some of the revised pedagogical features in the Weather and Water Course include:

  • Science notebooking embedded in the revised course, including focus questions and data processing (sensemaking) practices;
  • Assessment aligned with the FOSS K–6 assessment system based on findings from the NSF-funded ASK research;
  • FOSSmap, providing online formative assessments and diagnostic reports;
  • Updated FOSS Science Resources, used with literacy strategies that reflect Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts;
  • New and improved multimedia features embedded in each investigation;
  • Homework suggestions for each part; and
  • Teaching strategies that support content, practices, and crosscutting concepts as described in the Next Generation Science Standards.

Science and Engineering in the Earth Science Strand

The science and engineering practices are embedded in the FOSS Middle School Second Edition courses. Here is one example of how a complex concept—the fluid movement of air and its relationship to weather—is developed with models throughout the Weather and Water Course.

Developing and Using Models to understand air flow in weather

  • Investigation 3, Part 1: Students develop a particle model (microscopic-scale model) for air pressure to explain phenomena they observed during an air pressure activity.
  • Investigation 3, Part 2: Students apply the particle model with a wind map (large-scale model) to predict and explain air flow patterns over large areas of differing air pressures.
  • Investigation 4, Part 1: Students apply the particle model to solutions of different densities to understand motion of fluids (liquids).
  • Investigation 4, Part 3: Students apply the particle model to air of different temperatures (and densities) to understand motion of fluids (gases).
  • Investigation 6, Part 1: Students consider energy transfers at the particle level to understand how the atmosphere, which is made of air, is heated.
  • Investigation 6, Part 2: Students apply their understanding of energy transfers at the particle level as a model to explain large-scale movement of air masses in the form of local winds.
  • Investigation 6, Part 3: Students apply their understanding of energy transfers at the particle level (microscopic-scale model) combined with an understanding of heating and cooling on a global scale (large-scale model) to explain large-scale movement of air masses in the form of global winds.

Notice how, in the example above, various content ideas are threaded together to build toward the more complex phenomena that students tackle in the later investigations. Students are provided with opportunities to learn the physical science and earth science core ideas in the context of the FOSS investigations along the way. Also notice how the practice of developing and using models is employed as scaffolding for students' development of these core ideas as they progress through the course.

FOSS Middle School Second Edition Courses

FOSS Connections to NGSS

Teaching the new FOSS Middle School courses will address the learning expectations for the disciplinary core ideas, crosscutting concepts, and scientific and engineering practices described in NRC's Framework and the NGSS. For each revised course, we provide a connections document that is posted on FOSSweb ( under the "Module Information" for the course. See this document for a more complete look at how each science and engineering practice is supported in the Weather and Water Course.

What Is Next for FOSS Middle School?

With FOSS Middle School Second Edition courses, FOSS now has grade-level recommendations. Some FOSS courses serve as the foundation for later courses. For example, in the Life Science Strand, the Diversity of Life Course helps students explore the characteristics of life and basic classification of living things, which lay the groundwork for content developed in the 7th- and 8th-grade Life Science courses. Similarly, in the Physical Science Strand, the Motion and Forces Course is closely aligned with the skills in the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics at 6th grade, and develops content that students will expand on in the 7th- and 8th-grade courses. As an alternative, districts could choose to teach Life Science in one year, Earth Science in another, and Physical Science in the last middle school year.

Not all of the revised courses will be available immediately. From a school/district adoption standpoint, this can be seen as a good thing. It's not necessarily advantageous to change all your curriculum materials at the same time. This may overwhelm your teachers. FOSS recommends introducing one to two courses per grade level per year, using the materials that are available at the time. This will also give teachers time to work closely with the NGSS as they proceed and understand how the new FOSS curriculum supports their classroom work. The Delta sales representatives work very closely with FOSS Middle School Program development team at the Lawrence Hall of Science to design a rollout plan that works for your district and school.

Watch for Diversity of Life, Second Edition, in early 2015!