The eight Science and Engineering Practices (SEPs) are the tools and techniques that scientists and engineers use, and make up one of the three “dimensions” of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). The SEPs are a good entry point into understanding the NGSS, and a good place for teachers to begin bringing the NGSS into their classrooms, since they can be used with students to explore any content.
The Practices Brainstorm and Sort serves as an introduction to the SEPs as a way to organize ideas about what scientists and engineers do. Participants will have time to think independently about what they already understand about science and engineering, as well as time to collaborate with fellow educators to fit their prior knowledge into this new framework. Groups will do this by sorting their own words into the eight practices, filling each poster with verbs to form a collective definition for each of the SEPs. Whole-group discussions will help to pull out key ideas about the SEPs as a concept and about particular practices.
It’s usually easy for participants to come up with words during their brainstorm and to ultimately fill the posters. It’s useful to point this out, as it’s evidence that we all have some (or many!) ideas about what science and engineering look like, and are simply being asked to organize this knowledge around this new SEP framework.
Please note that this activity is just an introduction to the practices, and should be followed up with more activities (see related activities Science and Engineering Practices Circus and Comparing the Science and Engineering Practices), or by reading Appendix F of the NGSS, which describes each practice in depth.