NGSS Phenomena

The authors of NGSS suggests starting each unit with a phenomenon—a real-life example that engages students and encourages them to ask questions. They encourage phenomena that matter to students and connect to their lives.

While this unit is not framed around specific phenomena, it is designed to be used flexibly. The lessons can be used individually or together, and they can support student learning around any number of phenomena.

Below are are some ideas to get you thinking about phenomena for framing these lessons in your classroom.

Unit-Wide Phenomena

  • Present students with an example of a pathogen infecting a host, and encourage them to pose questions about it.
    • Students watch (with the sound off) a short animation of an influenza virus hijacking a cell and make inferences about what they are seeing.
    • Share a current news story about a pathogen that’s affecting people’s lives—the latest flu strain, an outbreak of food poisoning, etc.
    • Discover the story of Typhoid Mary or another human
    • Explore the size differences between a human and a virus or a bacteria (use Cell Size and Scale). Set up a David vs Goliath scenario: “How does something so tiny affect something so huge?”
  • Without revealing what they are, present students with images of various living things under a microscope (found online), or set up stations with microscopes and prepared slides. Have students find common characteristics, and ask questions about what they see. Ex: onion root tip, leaf, paramecium, cork, lung tissue, stomach lining
  • Share a story about lab-grown organs that are coated with the patient’s own stem cells

Phenomena for Individual Lessons

Is it Alive?

  • You find some slime on a cave wall. How do you determine whether it’s alive or not?
  • A rover brings a sample from Mars back to Earth. How do you determine whether it contains life?

Mystery Cell Model

  • How can a single cell be either an entire organism or just part of a larger one?