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Three-Dimensional Teaching and Learning: Rebuilding and Researching an Online Middle School Science Curriculum to Support the NGSS

Middle school science teachers are always searching for professional learning (PL) opportunities and classroom curricula that are NGSS aligned. But time is limited, and high quality NGSS-aligned materials are scarce. That’s why BSCS Science Learning’s Three-Dimensional Teaching and Learning project (3-D Middle School Science), now known as A Medical Mystery, is valuable.

Learn more about this project in our NSF Showcase Video!

Since 2015, 3-D Middle School Science has been developing and testing digital curriculum materials and associated curriculum-based PL. For teachers, this project provides PL focused on how to implement (1) an NGSS-aligned unit and (2) high-leverage science teaching strategies through video-based lesson analysis. These STeLLA® strategies help teachers reveal, support, and challenge student thinking while maintaining a coherent science content storyline. In conjunction with the PL element, teachers are supported in an interactive online environment and through online synchronous discussions with a facilitator and colleagues.

Students in 3-D Middle School Science classrooms are immersed in an online environment that aids their understanding of complex concepts. A body systems unit challenges them to explore and ultimately solve a medical mystery: “What’s Wrong with M’Kenna?” Over the course of several lessons, students investigate how and why M’Kenna is constantly sick, unable to keep her food down, and losing weight. They use scientific reasoning skills and argumentation to identify the digestive system as the problematic organ system—and then engage with a series of interactive experiences, simulations, and animations to observe and analyze the differences between M’Kenna’s digestive system and a healthy person’s digestive system.

Ultimately, students solve the mystery and learn important lessons about how the features of specialized cells enable body systems to function, and they use that understanding to explain all of M’Kenna’s symptoms based on how body systems interact. More importantly, they learn to use the inquiry-based practices of scientists to construct their own understanding of complex phenomena.

A Medical Mystery is available in a free, stand-alone website.

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This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. (1660985). Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.