STANDARD: As a result of activities in grades K-12, all students should develop understanding and abilities aligned with the following concepts and processes:
Systems, order, and organization
Evidence, models, and explanation
Constancy, change, and measurement
Evolution and equilibrium
Form and function
This standard presents broad unifying concepts and processes that complement the analytic, more discipline-based perspectives presented in the other content standards. The conceptual and procedural schemes in this standard provide students with productive and insightful ways of thinking about and integrating a range of basic ideas that explain the natural and designed world.
The unifying concepts and processes in this standard are a subset of the many unifying ideas in science and technology. Some of the criteria used in the selection and organization of this standard are
The concepts and processes provide connections between and among traditional scientific disciplines.
The concepts and processes are fundamental and comprehensive.
The concepts and processes are understandable and usable by people who will implement science programs.
The concepts and processes can be expressed and experienced in a developmentally appropriate manner during K-12 science education.
Each of the concepts and processes of this standard has a continuum of complexity that lends itself to the K-4, 5-8, and 9-12 grade-level clusters used in the other content standards. In this standard, however, the boundaries of disciplines and grade-level divisions are not distinct—teachers should develop students' understandings continuously across grades K-12.
Systems and subsystems, the nature of models, and conservation are fundamental concepts and processes included in this standard. Young students tend to interpret phenomena separately rather than in terms of a system. Force, for example, is perceived as a property of an object rather than the result of interacting bodies. Students do not recognize the differences between parts and whole systems, but view them as similar. Therefore, teachers of science need to help students recognize the properties of objects, as emphasized in grade-level content standards, while helping them to understand systems.
As another example, students in middle school and high school view models as physical copies of reality and not as conceptual representations. Teachers should help students understand that models are developed and tested by comparing the model with observations of reality.
Teachers in elementary grades should recognize that students' reports of changes in such things as volume, mass, and space can represent errors common to well-recognized developmental stages of children.
Some of the fundamental concepts that underlie this standard are
SYSTEMS, ORDER, AND ORGANIZATION The natural and designed world is complex; it is too large and complicated to investigate and comprehend all at once. Scientists and students learn to define small portions for the convenience of investigation. The units of investigation can be referred to as "systems." A system is an organized group of related objects or components that form a whole. Systems can consist, for example, of organisms, machines, fundamental particles, galaxies, ideas, numbers, transportation, and education. Systems have boundaries, components, resources flow (input and output), and feedback.
The goal of this standard is to think and analyze in terms of systems. Thinking and analyzing in terms of systems will help students keep track of mass, energy, objects, organisms, and events referred to in the other content standards. The idea of simple systems encompasses subsystems as well as identifying the structure and function of systems, feedback and equilibrium, and the distinction between open and closed systems.
Science assumes that the behavior of the universe is not capricious, that nature is the same everywhere, and that it is understandable and predictable. Students can develop an understanding of regularities in systems, and by extension, the universe; they then can develop understanding of basic laws, theories, and models that explain the world.
Newton's laws of force and motion, Kepler's laws of planetary motion, conservation laws, Darwin's laws of natural selection, and chaos theory all exemplify the idea of order and regularity. An assumption of order establishes the basis for cause-effect relationships and predictability.
Prediction is the use of knowledge to identify and explain observations, or changes, in advance. The use of mathematics, especially probability, allows for greater or lesser certainty of predictions.