NGSS Phenomena: A Heuristic for Coming up with Academically Productive Phenomena

So you found a good phenomenon - or have an idea for a unit and need a good phenomenon - now what?  This will help to frame how to begin to approach phenomena-driven instruction and how to leverage phenomena for use in a 3 dimensional instructional unit.  

20 Jun Spark With TJ McKenna: Using NGSS Phenomena To Engage Students

By Helen Maltese, Rubicon International. Featuring TJ McKenna, Connecticut Science Center  and Charles H. Barrows STEM Academy.

"Happy is he who gets to know the reason for things"

In our recent Spark with TJ McKenna, Staff Scientist for the Connecticut Science Center and Charles H. Barrows STEM Academy, he discusses how phenomena-driven instruction motivates students to be the scientists we know they naturally are.

Here is the link to a summary about using phenomena and the webinar recorded with Rubicon International. 


These resources were created by the Research + Practice Collaboratory ( in conjunction with Northwestern University.  These resources were created to help to bring phenomena into your unit planning and to start students working with phenomena.  


Selecting a Scientific Phenomenon or Engineering Design Challenge to Anchor a Sequence of Lessons

This tool describes a process for selecting a scientific phenomenon or engineering design challenge that connects to students’ interests and experiences and can anchor a coherent sequence of lessons that can engage all students in 3 Dimensional science learning. The process can be conducted as a multi-day workshop or as a series of shorter sessions.

Qualities of a Good Anchor Phenomenon for a Coherent Sequence of Science Lessons

Instructional sequences are more coherent when students investigate compelling natural phenomena (in science) or work on meaningful design problems (in engineering) by engaging in the science and engineering practices. We refer to these phenomena and design problems here as ‘anchors.’

Sample descriptions of Candidate Phenomena

When connecting phenomena to students questions and the Performance Expectations - it is helpful to see a few examples of how this can be done.  

CSSS 2016 Workshop "Adapting Curriculum for 3 Dimensional Learning"

The link below will connect you to the materials from a workshop, "Adapting Curriculum for 3 Dimensional Learning" held at the Council of State Science Supervisors (CSSS) National Conference in Nashville on March 31, 2016.


William R. Penuel, University of Colorado Boulder
Tiffany Clark, University of Colorado Boulder
Katie Van Horne, University of Colorado Boulder
Philip Bell, University of Washington
Shelley Stromholt, University of Washington