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Survey the Curriculum

Goal for this sessionThe new vision of science education focuses on deep understanding of a limited number of disciplinary core science ideas (DCIs). In this session, you analyze a short sequence of learning experiences within look at your curriculum through the lens of a DCI. You’ll identify target core ideas for the sequencesequences of curriculum learning experiences that build toward the overarching learning goal.

Study Guide

 Download pdf version of this Study Guide.

Prepare -  To prepare to analyze your classroom learning experiencescurriculum, review an Example Target Core Idea Survey the Curriculum Planning Tool for Investigations 10-12 in the 5th grade curriculum Investigating Water Transformations.

a. The first step is to use the NGSS to identify the Disciplinary Core Idea (DCI) that is the focus of the curriculum. This curriculum focuses on the DCI Matter and Its Interactions.

b.   With the target goals in mind, the next step is to identify learning goals that contribute to students’ understanding of the DCI-- and omit those that do not.


b. Notice the overarching learning goal (“big idea”) that was identified for Investigating Water Transformations.  This is the chunk of the DCI that the curriculum addresses.

c. On the Example Planning Tool, the learning experiences and understanding goals that build toward the big idea are listed for each section of the curriculum. Any activities and understanding goals that do not build toward the overarching learning goal are omitted.


Use the Planning Tool

  1. Find the standards for the DCI that your curriculum addresses. (See the NGSS.) Review what came before and what will come after in the students’ learning about this DCI. You’ll find components of the DCI listed under the performance expectations. (You can find descriptions of how each DCI develops from K-12 in theFramework.)
  2. Complete the Target Core Idea Planning Tool (docx).


  1. Use the curriculum’s front matter and lesson headings and introductions to identify the overarching goal and sequence of learning goals and activities.
  2. Complete the Survey the Curriculum Planning Tool.

Discuss in Your PLC

With your colleagues, share your filled out Survey the Curriculum Planning Tool.  

Grapple with questions.  Provide feedback and support. Plan your next steps.