Science Core Curriculum

Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)

San Francisco Unified School District is committed to a district-wide implementation of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) through a core curriculum that positively impacts science learning for all students.  ​The NGSS consist of 3 dimensions (Science and Engineering Practices (SEP), Disciplinary Core Ideas (DCI) and Crosscutting Concepts (CC))

NGSS 3 dimensions

The SEPs are behaviors that scientists engage in as they investigate and build models and theories about the natural world and the key set of engineering practices that engineers use as they design and build models and systems.

The DCIs are key organizing concepts, problem solving tools, or underlying principles of a discipline.

The CCs are underlying themes that have value in all disciplines of science.


When teachers integrate all three dimensions of the CA NGSS, their classrooms look different.  These shifts occur because the CA NGSS instruction has the following characteristics:

  • Three dimensional: Students engage in scientific inquiry of phenomena using all three dimensions of the CA NGSS. 
  • Coherent across the curriculum: Learning builds upon itself from year to year and science integrates with other parts of the curriculum.
  • Relevant to local communities and student interests: Content and skills build students’ existing experience to learn about and solve real-world problems

The NGSS call for a shift in the way that science is taught, with an increased focus on the doing of science and engineering through making sense of rich phenomena and solving real-world problems. As students have increasing access to endless amounts of information, being good at science is no longer defined by a student’s ability to memorize science content. Instead, we are focused on their ability to identify patterns, ask questions, analyze and interpret data, argue from evidence, collaborate with other scientists, and communicate their understandings.

Science in Our Schools

SFUSD has addressed these shifts by developing a Science Core Curriculum in partnership with SFUSD teachers and experts in the science education field. In designing for these shifts, the Core Curriculum aligns with SFUSD’s Vision 2025 and the expectations for student outcomes laid out in the Graduate Profile. Specifically, the curriculum engages students in taking on real-life tasks that use San Francisco as the classroom. Students are led to build mastery and personalize their learning in their approaches to the real-life tasks.

The Elementary Science team aims to improve elementary education for all students through the use and support of the SFUSD Science Core Curriculum.  The science core curriculum includes Amplify physical, earth and life science units and SFUSD teacher-created implementation guides to meet the needs of our diverse students and unique context. The curriculum follows a phenomenon-based approach, which encourages students to use evidence to explain or predict observable events. Students figure out how the world works through hands-on investigations, reading, talking, writing, scientific models, and computer simulations. The literacy-rich curriculum provides foundational content and vocabulary to help students access complex text, make sense of and appreciate the world around them in order to become scientifically and ecologically literate citizens.
The Secondary Core Curriculum follows the 5E Instructional model, a student-centered, constructivist approach to science learning that identifies students prior knowledge and through a series of experiences, has them build new and robust understanding of the science concepts. At each stage of the 5E lesson sequence (engage, explore, explain, elaborate, evaluate), students draw upon and build their literacy skills and their science and engineering practices. The 5E is a research-based model that ensures that students are developing deep conceptual understanding of the science that will transfer to new situations over many years. For strategies and supports for implementing the Science Core Curriculum, you can review our Science Teaching Toolkit.

The SFUSD Science Core Curriculum continues to evolve as teacher and student feedback has been incorporated starting with the initial field tests and continuing through its introduction into science classrooms throughout SFUSD. Teacher and student feedback will continue to be sought out to improve the instructional materials through ongoing revisions. This is a living curriculum that will move and grow over time as the wisdom from teachers across the district is more thoroughly incorporated. We are grateful for all of the teachers who have worked to develop this curriculum and look forward to more voices and experiences continuing to improve it.

NGSS Standards by Grade Level

This page was last updated on July 13, 2022