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Physics and 21st Century Science Standards: The Role of Physics in the NGSS

The Dimensions

The key elements of the NGSS are the three dimensions (Figure 5) that are interwoven

into each standard.

Disciplinary Core Ideas

(DCIs) These are the key pieces of discipline-focused

knowledge (i.e. content) that students should know.

Earth Science

Life Science

Physical Science


Science and Engineering Practices

(SEPs) These practices describe specific skills and

actions that can be performed by students that parallel the activities of scientists to

build models and theories and by engineers to design and build systems.

Asking questions (for science) and defining problems (for engineering)

Developing and using models

Planning and carrying out investigations

Analyzing and interpreting data

Using mathematics and computational thinking

Constructive explanations (for science) and designing solutions (for


Engaging in argument from evidence

Obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information.

Crosscutting Concepts

(CCs) These are the unifying ideas that span all science

disciplines that students with a broad science literacy should understand.

Organized by


Organized by


Physical Sciences

Matter and Its Interactions

Motion and Stability: Force & Motion


Waves and Their Applications in Technologies

for Information Transfer

Structure and Properties of Matter

Chemical Reactions


Forces and Interactions


Waves and Electromagnetic Radiation

Life Sciences

From Molecules to Organisms: Structures and



Ecosystems: Interactions, Energy, and



Heredity: Inheritance and Variation of Traits

Biological Evolution: Unity and Diversity


Structure and Function

Matter and Energy in Organisms and



Interdependent Relationships in


Inheritance and Variation of Traits

Natural Selection and Evolution

Earth and Space


Earth’s Place in the Universe


Earth’s Systems


Earth and Human Activity


Space Systems


History of Earth

Earth’s Systems


Weather and Climate


Human Sustainability


Engineering Design

Engineering Design

Engineering Design

Table 1: NGSS organized by DCI and Topic