Diving into science instruction using the NGSS was extremely overwhelming. I was so focused on the content that I never paid attention to the cross cutting concepts or the science & engineering practices. After this post, you’ll be using SEPs in Kindergarten in no time!

What’s awesome about the science and engineering practices is that you probably are already using them in your science instruction. And if you’re not sure what that would look like, I’m going to break down all eight into Kindergarten skills over the next few blog posts!

A checklist to monitor the use of SEPs in Kindergarten. It includes physical science, earth & space, and life science core disciplinary ideas.
I keep track of all my core disciplinary ideas and Science & Engineering practices with this google sheets. You can get a copy for yourself. Just click the picture!

How can I use the SEPs in Kindergarten?

First, when we’re talking about the practices, just know that when writing the standards that the researchers asked scientists and engineers what their daily work looked like. From that information, the science and engineering practices were formed.

The practices are:

  • Ask questions & define problems *
  • Develop models *
  • Plan investigations
  • Analyze data & findings
  • Math & computational thinking
  • Construct explanations & design solutions
  • Engage in argumentation
  • Obtain, evaluate, & communicate information

I am going to show you what each of these look like in a Kindergarten classroom! This means I will be using core disciplinary ideas from the K standards (feel free to make these apply to any age/grade level though!)

Ask questions & define problems

This is an easy one that five year olds are EXPERTS at! Seriously, they ask hundreds of questions all the time (now we just need to focus them on a topic! I know, easier said than done).

Asking your students what they notice and what questions they have is the first step to any investigation! I typically organize their ideas in a KWL chart (what I: Know, Want to know, Learned) and add onto it as the lesson or unit of study continues.

At the beginning of any new unit, show your class a random video of the phenomena you’re going to teach. For example, if you were teaching about forces and motions, maybe you would show them a video of a Rube Goldberg machine.

A Rube Goldberg Machine with a yellow pool ball rolling down a series of ramps with obstacles in it's way.

You will direct them to focus on how the ball moves through the system. What do you notice about how the yellow pool ball moves? What do you think causes that? From there, your students will have tons of questions to explore!

I then add their schema (what they know) and their questions to the KWL chart. This chart stays hanging in my room for the length of unit and can always be added on to.

Let’s look at the Rube Goldberg machine again. What if the yellow pool ball didn’t land in the blue cup?

You could ask the students to define the problem (the ball is too big, the cup is too small, there wasn’t enough force, etc). This would help the use the SEPs in Kindergarten.

Develop models

I tell my students that a model is just a fancy word for picture! But it can also mean a 3D representation or a computer simulation.

I love making models with play dough when it can be done. The students love playing with the dough and it helps with fine motor skills too!

Making models with playdough is a great way to use the SEPs in Kindergarten.

After you’ve gathered questions, ask your students to draw a picture of how they think something works. Here’s an example of what a flower needs to live/grow.

This model of a flower before and after instruction demonstrates how to use the SEPs in Kindergarten.
Here’s an example of what a flower needs to grow. Available in my TPT store.

The models that your students make are so helpful for you! They make it easier to see what your students know and what they don’t understand still.

In the flower example, the first model shows rain being a major factor for helping the flower grow. However, you know that plants need more than just water. The second model demonstrates more information than the first (this would occur after your unit of study is over!)

Asking Questions, Using Models, Defining Problems review

We went over 2 of the 8 SEPs in Kindergarten. Do you have other ways to ask questions, define problems, and use models?

Don’t forget I give you an overview of the NGSS in Kindergarten in my workbook. It breaks down the Next Generation Science Standards and provides you with lesson templates to use a 5E Model.

Come back next week to learn about Planning Investigations & Analyzing Data!

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