Materials World Modules

An Inquiry & Design-Based Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Education Program

Alignment with the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)

MWM content and methodology seamlessly integrate the three dimensions – Practices, Cross-Cutting Elements, and Content - outlined in the NGSS, with a strong emphasis on Engineering Design. (Click on the 3 tabs below to see examples of how MWM modules meet each of the 3 dimensions of the Next Generation Science Standards.)



Dimension 1: Practices

Dimension 1: Science and Engineering Practices

Dimension 1: NGSS Practices 

1.  A) Asking questions (science)
     B) defining problems (engineering)

2.  Developing and using models

3.  Planning and carrying out investigations

4.  Analyzing and interpreting data

5.  Using mathematics and computational thinking

6.  A) Constructing explanations (for science) and
     B) designing solutions (for engineering)

7.  Engaging in argument from evidence

8.  Obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information

The new standards call for more hands-on practice – a tall order when curricula are already so crowded! MWM’s inquiry and design methodology simultaneously develops all eight of the science and engineering practices outlined in the standards (right), making it a quick and flexible way to incorporate hands-on science and engineering practices into your curriculum!

LightFor example: the “Manipulation of Light in the Nanoworld” module prompts students to ask questions about how photons interact with matter (Practice 1A) and how this behavior can be used to improve signal (information) processing and other applications (Practice 1B). Students make a CD-ROM spectroscope and use online simulations (left) to study the behavior of different light sources upon interaction with structured matter (Practices 2&3). They work on teams to collect, analyze, and interpret data (Practices 4&5) to explain the scattering, diffraction, and reflection of light (Practices 6A, 7, & 8). Then they design a photonic crystal to solve the problem of reflecting and transmitting light of particular wavelengths (Practice 6B), using an online simulation (Practice 2) to vary the structure of the photonic crystal, the wavelength, and the angle of incidence to optimize its performance (Practices 4, 5, 7, 8). After performing tests and making improvements (Practice 6B), they make presentations describing their designs and the foundational concepts involved (Practice 8).


Dimension 2: Crosscutting Concepts

Dimension 2: Crosscutting Concepts

Dimension 2: Crosscutting Concepts

Crosscutting Concept MWM Modules

1. Patterns

All Modules
2. Cause & Effect All Modules
3. Scale, Proportion, and Quantity All Modules, esp. the Nano modules
4. Systems and Systems Models Solar Cells, Food Packaging, Sports Materials
5. Energy and Matter Solar Cells, Manipulation of Light, Environmental Catalysis
6. Structure & Function All Modules
7. Stability and Change Biodegradable Materials, Biosensors

The new standards prescribe a new type of interdisciplinarity – one that prepares students to synthesize STEM concepts and apply them to diverse situations. MWM is ideal for teaching STEM in this integrated way!

Since 1993, MWM has provided students with an integrated STEM learning experience that:

  • demonstrates how STEM disciplines are inter-related;
  • applies cross-cutting STEM concepts to natural phenomena and global challenges; and
  • uses math skills to solve science and engineering problems.

Because our module topics come from the inherently crosscutting field of materials science and engineering, they naturally address all of the crosscutting concepts outlined in the new core standards (right).



Dimension 3: Disciplinary Core Ideas

Dimension 3: Disciplinary Core Ideas

MWM topics are highly relevant to society and the natural world. Consequently, they address most of the disciplinary core ideas outlined in the NGSS – including ideas from:

  • Physical Sciences (PS)
  • Life Sciences (LS)
  • Earth and Space Sciences (ESS)
  • Engineering, Technology and Applications of Science (ETS)

mgss scMWM teaches these core ideas through practice rather than by rote, within the framework of an engineering problem and a design challenge. For example:
In the “Polymers” module, students learn that different chemical structures of polyethylene confer different properties to a bulk substance, including strength, viscosity and absorption (PS1-3) and apply this knowledge to the design of a humidity sensor, or novel polymer product.

The “Manipulation of Light in the Nanoworld” and “Nanotechnology” modules discuss the use of light spectra- including the reflection, refraction, and scattering of light (PS4) - using simulations and hands-on experiments. These concepts are essential to discovery in astronomy and the geosciences.

In the "Food Packaging" module, students must optimize packaging to leave a minimal impact on the environment (ESS3-4), while ensuring that food is safe for consumption. The "Environmental Catalysis" module addresses the impact of humans on weather, life cycles, and climate change (ESS3).

In the "Biosensors" module, students learn about bioluminescence and must consider the advantages it may give to an organism (LS1-4). The "Dye-Sensitized Solar Cell" module uses principles of photosynthesis (LS1-6) to discuss and design a device that translates energy from solar to electric (PS3-3, right).

Focus on Engineering Design

Created by teachers and professional engineers, MWM is a natural fit for the new standards in Engineering Design (ETS1) and links among Engineering, Technology, Science and Society (ETS2).

core ideasEngineering Design Process: Modules employ the same engineering design process prescribed by the NGSS (right.) Students must define an engineering problem and design a creative solution to that problem, using their own research findings to define contraints and evaluate possible solutions. But the process doesn’t stop there - students must also test their design, and optimize it through an iterative process by answering questions such as:

  • Which aspects of the design worked?
  • Which material was the “weak link” and how can you mitigate that weakness?
  • Is there a point when further improvement to one aspect of a product is no longer beneficial to the whole?

Interdependence of Science, Engineering and Technology: By participating in the entire process of technology development - from scientific discovery to prototype design – students learn first-hand how asking the right questions, accurately performing experiments and carefully analyzing data can arm them with the perspective needed to solve engineering problems!

Here is an example of how MWM meets the new NGSS standards in Engineering Design:

 MWM and Engineering Design

Example from Dye-Sensitized Solar Cell (DSSC) Module

Each module has several design project options. Working as a team, students come up with their own design of a product or a process with a given set of constraints and criteria, such as cost, utility, safety, and/or time to produce.  Each module also has at least one design project that asks the design team to meet given specifications.  Each module and design project has relevance to societal needs and/or solving a global problem relating to health, energy, security, or environment.  MS/HS ETS1-1 This module asks students to design a solar cell that has a maximum absorption spectrum using natural dyes and pigments obtained from things like berries or leaves. Several components must be optimized, first individually, then as a group, to create the most efficient DSSC:
  1. Choice of a good dye – how broad of a spectrum does it absorb vs. the energy output.
  2. Optimization of TiO2 coating – the thickness affects how much dye can be bonded and the packing density of particles, which will alter the access of the electrolyte to the TiO2 particles.
  3. Size of the conductive glass plate – more surface area can be useful, but it is costly.
Most modules, especially those relating to nanotechnology, ask students to consider the choice of each component and part to be used in the system (i.e., the final product). MS/HS ETS1-2 Before building their own solar cell, students perform chromatography experiments to identify pigments in a spinach leaf and learn about the spectrum of light absorbed by each pigment to determine which pigments for different kinds of light. They also learn how to assess the limits of their equipment by measuring the internal resistance of their solar cell.

Once the product is developed, students take measurements to see how close they have come to the optimal solution of their design, within the given constraints.  Students are asked to improve their design models and compare those of the other teams to adopt components from couple different models to obtain the overall ultimate design.  MS/HS ETS1-3

After the design project, students are asked to present their project to the class, using data to support their claims, and evaluate which parts of the design were most and least successful.

Classes then have the option to compare multiple solar cell designs in order to evaluate their efficiency and choose components that can work optimally together.

With further simulation and modeling, students carry out an iterative design process.  MS/HS ETS1-4

Students can use a simulation that helps them understand the relationship between different dye molecules and their absorption spectra.  The simulation also adds the factor of cost to encourage students to consider the practicality of implementing their designs.

@ Materials World Modules