Informal Science Education and the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)

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January 13th, 2015

The National Research Council released a new report entitled Guide to Implementing the Next Generation Science Standards, intended to help educational leaders and K-12 educators integrate the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) into classrooms. While the report is focused on formal education, it also outlines the supporting role that community partnerships can play, especially with respect to informal learning institutions such as museums, science centers, zoos, aquariums, planetariums, and out-of-school time programs. Ways that informal learning organizations can support NGSS implementation include working directly with school-aged children and providing teacher professional development, in both cases designing activities and settings that enhance the understanding of core disciplinary areas and crosscutting concepts and foster the skills involved in science practices. The repository provides access to a growing number of resources relevant for informal learning professionals who are interested in partnering with or supporting formal education around the NGSS or other science educational standards. Here are some examples:

Advancing Informal STEM Learning Through Scientific Alternate Reality Games

This National Science Foundation-funded project provides a contemporary example of an informal STEM education project that is shaped by the NGSS. The project will create two scientific alternate reality games that are aligned to the NGSS content and are designed for use in both formal and informal settings. The first game, Dust, is scheduled to be released later this month. 

Facilitating the Framework

The Exploratorium’s project “Facilitating the Framework: Developing a Model Museum Program to Facilitate Science Education Reform in the Schools” is an early example of a museum developing content to support educational standards. The Facilitating the Framework report provides an overview of the project, discussing some of the assumptions and challenges involved with creating exhibit content tailored to the Science Framework for California Public Schools.

How can museums help teachers with the Next Generation Science Standards?

One way that museums can play a role in the understanding and implementation of science standards is by offering professional development opportunities for K-12 teachers. This article from the Association of Science-Technology Center’s Dimensions magazine discusses some of the tools, processes, and challenges associated with professional development programs at the American Museum of Natural History.

Museums Step Up as Resource for New Science Standards

This article from Education Week provides a synopsis of some of the ways that museums are serving as a resource during the implementation of the NGSS and the Common Core, which addresses math and English language arts education. The article highlights the fact that the new standards focus on scientific processes and practices, which is an area where science museums excel. Museums can also provide a safe space for teachers to practice implementing the new standards outside of their school districts.

Supporting the Implementation of NGSS Through Research: Informal Science Education

This paper prepared by leading learning researchers and commented on by the field through an forum outlines the broad ways in in which informal learning organizations can support NGSS implementation, and also highlights some of the mismatched areas between the NGSS and ISE. This is part of a series of papers on supporting NGSS implementation organized by NARST (, a worldwide organization for improving teaching and learning through research.

5 Tech Tools for the Next Generation Science Standards

For a hands-on approach to the NGSS, this article from T H E Journal discusses hardware and software that can be aligned with science standards for educators to use in the classroom or in informal settings. These tools can be used to support the inquiry process as well as the core disciplinary areas addressed in the NGSS. 

How has your institution responded to the NGSS and/or other STEM education standards? Let us know by leaving a comment, reaching out to us on Twitter (@informalscience), or contacting us at

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