What is phenomena?

How can we as facilitators in our classroom introduce, teach, and invoke curiosity surrounding the phenomena?

The answer is to get students interested in what they’re about to explore. Take this video for example. It’s cool to look at and so many questions come to mind. 

I’m going to show you how I’d use that video and introduce it all to my class.

Why is picking the perfect phenomenon important?

Picking an intriguing video or picture to jump start your unit of study is necessary. You can hook your kids on something from the beginning by finding relevant phenomena to them. If you start with a picture that is boring, has no value to your students, or doesn’t work for what you’re teaching… it just leads to bored students who aren’t invested.

The phenomena that you choose is going to lay the foundation for the entire lesson or unit of study, we call this anchoring phenomenon. It should directly intertwine with your NGSS storyline (see more about storylines here)

If you live near California, it would make sense for you to discuss the forest fires or earthquakes but not so much to focus on water pollution in New Jersey and how it effects the local fish population. You’re going to get students to buy in if they can find something relevant to their life in what you’re showing them.

So how do we do this? Keep reading and I’ll help you out. 

Step 1: Figure out what you’re teaching.

There are a few questions you need to ask yourself before introducing a new phenomena.

  • What DCI (Disciplinary Core Idea) are you teaching?
  • What would interest your students?
  • Can this phenomena be linked to an entire unit or just part of one?

 When you have asked yourself these questions and know what kind of phenomena you want, we can start searching for it!

Step 2: Find relevant phenomena.

There are so many awesome resources for finding phenomena. I’ve compiled a list for you here:

https://www.ngssphenomena.com/ – GIFs of phenomena in a free library

https://thewonderofscience.com/phenomenal – Divided by grade level standards for easier location of phenomena

https://www.wonderopolis.org/ – Lots of focus on questioning and “wondering” 

https://thekidshouldseethis.com/ – Great for introducing to younger kids, simple

https://Youtube.com – search for the DCI standard and phenomena to get numerous videos

Step 3: Introduce the phenomenon

When introducing a new phenomena I don’t give background information because I want the students first response to be their curiosity and I’ll say something along these lines:

“We are going to be learning something new this week and I want to share with you a cool video I found that will introduce us into the topic.”

While we watch the video, I want you to think about what you are seeing.

What questions do you have about the phenomena?

Have you seen something like this before?

Do you have any knowledge about what is happening?

What do you notice/wonder about the phenomena?

Step 4: Write/Draw what is noticed

Have students do 1 of 2 things, either write their questions down or draw a model of what they link is happening.

For their questions- you can have students write in a notebook, index cards, sticky notes, in a google doc, really whatever you want them to write on to keep track of their questions.

When students draw a model it is putting down what they think is happening from the phenomenon, this model should be referred back to throughout your unit of study. Students should update and add on to their original model to show what they are learning as you go.

Have students identify what is the phenomenon and how they think they’re going to learn more about it. I think it’s fun to see their ideas.


So now that you know what phenomena is and how to use it, what are you going to teach first? 

Need some ideas for new lessons? See how I teach making models to a Kindergarten Class.

Drop a comment with your favorite phenomena!

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