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California Department of Education

California Next Generation Science Standards

Integrated Learning Progression Overview


The chart below illustrates the topic arrangement of the Performance Expectations (PE) to link the learning progression through middle school in each discipline.

The chart above summarizes the progression of learning from sixth grade through eighth grade in the NGSS cross cutting concepts and the following disciplinary core ideas: 1) Life Sciences; 2) Earth and Space Sciences; 3) Physical Science; and 4) Engineering, Technology, and Applications of Science.

Life Science (six–eight): The learning progression builds from the individual organism in sixth grade, to its place in an ecosystem in seventh grade, to the development of these systems over time in eighth grade.  In sixth grade, the focus is on the structure of cells and organisms including: body systems, growth and development, and the basis of sexual and asexual reproduction. More detailed DNA-level of understanding is deferred to eighth grade, after students have developed sufficient understanding of chemical processes and atomic level structure for these concepts to be meaningfully developed. The PEs at seventh grade require knowledge of the interdependence of organisms to each other and abiotic factors, as well as the cycling of matter and flow of energy that maintains ecosystems. These concepts are supported by the energy and matter concepts from sixth and seventh grade. In eighth grade, the critical ideas of variability and natural selection are introduced, and together with the ideas of deep time and the fossil record, form the basis for the relationship between the history of the earth and life on it. These topics require understanding of time scale and population distributions of traits that need eighth grade level mathematical sophistication.
Earth and Space Science (six–eight): The learning progression builds from the interaction of earth’s systems in fifth grade to a deeper exploration of the hydrosphere and atmosphere in sixth grade. These two systems play very large roles in weather conditions and in regional and global climate. In seventh grade, the focus turns to the geosphere as students learn about changes to the earth’s surface, plate movement, and the formation of earth materials. In eighth grade, the earth takes its place in the solar system and the universe as students get a much broader sense of time and space, including the more cosmic perspectives of the solar system, Milky Way galaxy, and a universe teeming with other galaxies.
Physical Science (six–eight): The learning progression builds on the knowledge of the particulate structure of matter from fifth grade to an understanding of energy in terms of the motions of particles of matter in sixth grade. Students investigate thermal energy and the transfer of energy. They are also introduced to a conceptual understanding of potential and kinetic energy with the full mathematical understanding of the concepts delayed until eighth grade. In seventh grade, the structure and property of matter and chemical reactions are studied. These build on and deepen ideas from kindergarten through grade five (K–5). In seventh grade, students can connect the chemical nature of the earth and life science concepts and begin to develop atomic and molecular level ideas about matter that are the base for eighth grade and high school science. Eighth grade provides opportunities to continue the study of: forces and interactions built in K–5, applications of structure and function concepts introduced in sixth grade, structure and properties of matter introduced in seventh grade to the context of space science introduced in eighth grade. In eighth grade, mathematical expressions, relationships of forces and interactions, kinetic and potential energy are introduced and students begin to build an understanding of these concepts that includes more quantitative aspects. Waves and electromagnetic interactions are also not introduced until eighth grade because of the mathematical representations required for describing and quantifying their properties.


In conclusion, this integrated progression at each grade level supports a logical flow of content and increasing complexity of concepts across grade levels (from sixth through eighth grade).  This arrangement of the CA NGSS provides the opportunity for cohesive content integration within and across grade levels.