FOSS Middle School: What's Coming in 2016–17

Jessica Penchos, FOSS Middle School Coordinator, Lawrence Hall of Science
September 10, 2015 | Program News

By the time this newsletter reaches you, the FOSS Populations and Ecosystems Course, Second Edition, will be getting ready to ship. This means that the FOSS Middle School NGSS-aligned Second Edition courses are nearing completion!

Here is the current course availability and recommended sequence.

FOSS Middle School Strands

For existing First Edition users, it will be a smooth conversion to update your program. And for those looking for new resources to connect with the National Research Council's A Framework for K–12 Science Education: Practices, Crosscutting Concepts, and Disciplinary Core Ideas (2012) and the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) performance expectations, these courses will meet your needs. Some of the revised pedagogical features in the Second Edition courses include:

  • Teaching strategies that support content, practices, and crosscutting concepts as described in the Next Generation Science Standards;
  • Science notebooking embedded in the revised course, including focus questions and information processing (sensemaking) practices;
  • Formative assessment aligned with the FOSS K–5 Program based on findings from the NSF-funded ASK research;
  • New and improved multimedia features embedded in each investigation, homework suggestions for each part; and
  • FOSS Science Resources literacy improvements that reflect Common Core State Standards in English Language Arts.

New Titles in the Middle School Sequence

You probably are curious to learn about the new titles in the tables. As we have worked with FOSS middle school First Edition courses to revise them and prepare for the Second Edition, we've reminded ourselves to think outside of the box. Carefully working with the Disciplinary Core Ideas in the Framework and the Performance Expectations in the NGSS, we have tested a number of new configurations and conceptual flows in our classroom development. We've been busy in local classrooms over the last couple of years, and we are getting ready to announce these new titles soon.

Unlike the previously-released Second Edition courses, these titles are new courses; however, you will see some familiar investigations, parts, and materials reintroduced and polished to fit into their new homes.

A Change in Format

The rumors are true—for the new titles, we have also experimented and experienced success with a change in format. Instead of 10–12 week courses, the new titles represent smaller pieces of the middle school curriculum puzzle. Each new title is scheduled for 5–6 weeks. Two new titles comprise the length of a traditional FOSS middle school course.

These shorter courses allow us to delve into topics in a different way, completing a shorter conceptual arc around one particular topic in depth. This wouldn't work for an intricately-connected topic like Earth History, but it does work well for a more discrete topic like Waves. The teachers we worked with in testing found the shorter format to be a refreshing change.

When you put all the courses together, it looks like the scope and sequence you see on the next page.

As you can see, the FOSS Middle School program is still modular, allowing you to mix and match courses by grade level to meet your local needs. Our recommended sequence takes into account some developmental considerations by placing introductory content at the lower grades and moving more abstract content to higher grades.

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 FOSS Weather and Water Course, Second Edition at 7th grade and move the FOSS Earth History Course, Second Edition to 6th grade. The FOSS curriculum developers and Delta Education Sales Managers are always happy to talk with you about your school's or district's situation to figure out the best arrangement to meet your needs.

FOSS Middle School Second Edition Courses

A Focus on Engineering


You may have noticed that the physical science courses are the last in development. We are taking time with these courses to fully integrate the engineering standards in meaningful ways. You will also see some of the engineering standards in life and earth science courses, but they are more thoroughly developed in the physical sciences. Students will be engaging with the engineering design cycle to apply the physical science content they've learned and engage with the content in a different, deeper way. This development takes time, but we think you will find it to be worth the wait!

Rolling Adoptions

What to do if you're ready to adopt the new courses, but they aren't all available now? FOSS recommends introducing one to two courses per grade level per year, using the FOSS curriculum materials that are available at the time. This will also give teachers time to work thoughtfully with the NGSS as they come to understand how the new FOSS curriculum supports their classroom work. The Delta Education Sales Managers will work very closely with the FOSS Middle School Program development team at the Lawrence Hall of Science to design a rollout plan that works for your district and school.

Teaching the new FOSS middle school courses will address the performance 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 an NGSS-connections document that is posted on FOSSweb ( under the "Module Information" tab for the course.

FOSS at NSTA Conferences

Revised FOSS middle school courses will be featured in workshops at the NSTA fall conferences and the national conference in Nashville next spring (see the calendar at the end of this newsletter). Look for other announcements about professional development opportunities on the FOSSweb PD calendar, including the summer 2016 FOSS Middle School Institutes!