What are Disciplinary Core Ideas? | NGSS

Disciplinary Core Ideas, or DCIs, are one of the three dimensions that make up the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). DCIs are key components of science education and include ideas that are important across one or multiple science and engineering disciplines. Simply put, they are big ideas that students need to know to be able to understand the world around them. The DCIs form a conceptual framework through which students can understand the scientific disciplines. (1)

The NSTA lists four criteria of which a DCI must meet at least two, but ideally four

  • Have broad importance across multiple sciences or engineering disciplines or be a key organizing concept of a single discipline
  • Provide a key tool for understanding or investigating more complex ideas and solving problems 
  • Relate to the interests and life experiences of students or be connected to societal or personal concerns that require scientific or technological knowledge
  • Be teachable and learnable over multiple grades at increasing levels of depth and sophistication (2)

DCIs are divided into four domains: Life Science, Earth and Space Science, Physical Science, and Engineering, Technology and the Application of Science. Within these domains, there are several groups of ideas that build in complexity as students progress through their academic careers:

Life Science

  • LS1: From Molecules to Organisms: Structures and Processes
  • LS2: Ecosystems: Interactions, Energy, and Dynamics
  • LS3: Heredity: Inheritance and Variation of Traits
  • LS4: Biological Evolution: Unity and Diversity

Earth and Space Science

  • ESS1: Earth’s Place in the Universe
  • ESS2: Earth’s Systems
  • ESS3: Earth and Human Activity

Physical Science

  • PS1: Matter and Its Interactions
  • PS2: Motion and Stability: Forces and Interactions
  • PS3: Energy
  • PS4: Waves and Their Applications in Technologies for Information Transfer

Engineering, Technology and the Application of Science

  • ETS1: Engineering Design

The DCIs don’t just build complexity in themselves—they also build upon each other over the course of a student’s science education, allowing students to form a deeper understanding of the world and make sense of phenomena. The DCIs are interwoven with the SEPs and CCCs, providing opportunities for students to apply these practices and concepts to different core ideas. 

How do you make sure that you cover the DCIs? 

To ensure that you hit the three dimensions of the NGSS, you need the support of a good NGSS program. Twig Science is a phenomena-based science program for Grades PK/TK–8 created specifically for the NGSS, ensuring all students have an interwoven understanding of Disciplinary Core Ideas, Science and Engineering Practices, and Crosscutting Concepts. In Twig Science, students experience dozens of different STEM roles as they become creative problem solvers, making sense of engaging, real-world phenomena. 

Learn more about Twig Science.

  1. https://www.nsta.org/blog/whats-so-special-about-disciplinary-core-ideas-part-1
  2. ttps://ngss.nsta.org/DisciplinaryCoreIdeasTop.aspx

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