Contributor: Kristen Poppleton, Climate Generation: A Will Steger Legacy, NSTA NGSS Curator

Scott Carley, College of Exploration

Frank Niepold, NOAA


In 2013, the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) were released as the most current, research-based way of educating students in STEM and preparing them for STEM careers. The NGSS establish high standards for delivering effective STEM education. They challenge curriculum providers and professional developers to provide the instructional support necessary to make the NGSS accessible to educators.  Hands-on learning, effective communication, making connections across all domains of science and other disciplines, an emphasis on including “all voices,” and the importance of developing a learning progression are all integral to effective NGSS implementation.

NGSS performance expectations represent the final assessment of learning and therefore one lesson, or even a few, cannot fully develop a student’s full mastery. Additionally, true NGSS instruction and learning is three-dimensional, including not only disciplinary core ideas (DCI), but cross cutting concepts (CCC) and scientific and engineering practices (SEP) as well. The National Climate Assessment (NCA) is an excellent resource for educators to use as they implement the NGSS in their classrooms. Recognizing that the NCA is a resource that emphasizes integral core ideas to the NGSS but does not include further instructional support, we have identified NGSS performance expectations that connect well with the NCA and identified some sections and figures in the NCA to support those performance expectations. The included connections are by no means comprehensive, but merely a starting point for exploring the NCA as a supporting resource for educators implementing the NGSS.

The NCA summarizes the impacts of climate change on the United States, now and in the future.  This report collects, integrates, and assesses observations and research from around the country, helping us to see what is actually happening and understand what it means for our lives, our livelihoods, and our future. It is important that these findings and response options be shared broadly to inform citizens and communities across our nation. Climate change presents a major challenge for society. This report advances our understanding of that challenge and the need for the American people to prepare for and respond to its far-reaching implications.  

Through its Our Changing Climate section and Climate Science Supplement sections, the NCA contains information that will help educators and students gain a deeper understanding of climate science. This content will support the integration of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) into science education.  The NGSS also asks educators to raise the teaching of engineering design to the same level as scientific inquiry. In the Adaptation and Infrastructure sections of the NCA, educators can find information on climate-related problems and solutions, including those that draw on engineering design. The Decision Support section provides information on how decision makers across the country are using climate information to prepare for the impacts of climate change that affect where they work and live.

Middle School

The NGSS introduce global climate change as a core idea in middle school. 

The core idea includes:

  • human activities affect global warming
  • decisions to reduce the impacts of global warming depend on understanding climate science, engineering capabilities, and social dynamics

Middle School Performance Expectations that include the Global Climate Change Core Idea

  • MS-ESS3-1.     Construct a scientific explanation based on evidence for how the uneven distributions of Earth's mineral, energy, and groundwater resources are the result of past and current geoscience processes. (NCA-related content: Regional Sections)
  • MS-ESS3-2.     Analyze and interpret data on natural hazards to forecast future catastrophic events and inform the development of technologies to mitigate their impacts.


Forest Fires


Disruptions from Extreme Weather

Increasing Forest Disturbances

Weather Disruptions

Extreme Weather

Increased Wildfire

Hurricane Sandy: Urban Systems, Infrastructure, and Vulnerability

Heavy Downpours Increasing

Plants and Animals

Paths of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita Relative to Oil and Gas Production Facilities



Changes in Hurricanes

  • MS-ESS3-3.     Apply scientific principles to design a method for monitoring and minimizing a human impact on the environment. (NCA-related content: Response Strategies)

  • MS-ESS3-4.     Construct an argument supported by evidence for how increases in human population and per-capita consumption of natural resources impact Earth's systems. (NCA-related content: Changes to Water Demand and Use)

  • MS-ESS3-5.     Ask questions to clarify evidence of the factors that have caused the rise in global temperatures over the past century. (NCA-related content: Our Changing Climate)

Middle School Engineering Design Performance Expectations

An important component of the NCA is the section on response strategies, which are directly tied to the NGSS Engineering Design performance expectations as well as regional- and sector-based solutions that are presented.  In middle school, students should be able to define problems with “precision,” which includes consideration of the intended and unintended outcomes of a design.  In addition, they should be able to develop solutions and the criteria to evaluate them, and then go through the iterative process of improving their designs.

  • MS-ETS1-1.     Define the criteria and constraints of a design problem with sufficient precision to ensure a successful solution, taking into account relevant scientific principles and potential impacts on people and the natural environment that may limit possible solutions.
  • MS-ETS1-2.     Evaluate competing design solutions using a systematic process to determine how well they meet the criteria and constraints of the problem.
  • MS-ETS1-3.     Analyze data from tests to determine similarities and differences among several design solutions to identify the best characteristics of each that can be combined into a new solution to better meet the criteria for success.
  • MS-ETS1-4.     Develop a model to generate data for iterative testing and modification of a proposed object, tool, or process such that an optimal design can be achieved.

Middle School Ecosystems: Interactions, Energy, and Dynamics Performance Expectations

An entire chapter of the NCA is dedicated to Ecosystems, Biodiversity, and Ecosystem Services, and many of the regions identify impacts on ecosystems that are regionally specific.  Related NGSS middle school life science performance expectations were developed to help students answer the question: “How does a system of living and non-living things operate to meet the needs of the organisms in an ecosystem?”

High School

The high school NGSS global climate change core idea builds off of learning from middle school. By the end of high school, students understand that:

  • Global climate models used to predict changes continue to be improved, although discoveries about the global climate system are ongoing and continually needed. 

High School Performance Expectations that include the Global Climate Change Core Idea


High School Life Science, Ecosystems: Interactions, Energy, and Dynamics Performance Expectations

An entire chapter of the NCA is dedicated to Ecosystems, Biodiversity, and Ecosystem Services, and many of the regions identify impacts on ecosystems that are regionally specific.  Related NGSS high school life science performance expectations were developed to help students be able to answer the question: “How and why do organisms interact with their environment, and what are the effects of these interactions?”

  • HS-LS2-2.     Use mathematical representations to support and revise explanations based on evidence about factors affecting biodiversity and populations in ecosystems of different scales. (NCA-related content: Increasing Forest Disturbances)

  • HS-LS2-4.     Use mathematical representations to support claims for the cycling of matter and flow of energy among organisms in an ecosystem. (NCA-related content: Biogeochemical Cycles)

  • HS-LS2-5.     Develop a model to illustrate the role of photosynthesis and cellular respiration in the cycling of carbon among the biosphere, atmosphere, hydrosphere, and geosphere. (NCA-related content: Biogeochemical Cycles, Changing Carbon Uptake)

  • HS-LS2-6.     Evaluate the claims, evidence, and reasoning that the complex interactions in ecosystems maintain relatively consistent numbers and types of organisms in stable conditions, but changing conditions may result in a new ecosystem. (NCA-related content:  Increasing Forest Disturbances, Increasing Stress on Native Plants and Animals)

High School Engineering Design Performance Expectations

Engineering design at the high school level engages students in complex problems that include issues of social and global significance. (NGSS, Appendix I)

  • HS-ETS1-1.     Analyze a major global challenge to specify qualitative and quantitative criteria and constraints for solutions that account for societal needs and wants.

  • HS-ETS1-2.     Design a solution to a complex real-world problem by breaking it down into smaller, more manageable problems that can be solved through engineering.

  • HS-ETS1-3.     Evaluate a solution to a complex real-world problem based on prioritized criteria and trade-offs that account for a range of constraints, including cost, safety, reliability, and aesthetics as well as possible social, cultural, and environmental impacts.

  • HS-ETS1-4.     Use a computer simulation to model the impact of proposed solutions to a complex real-world problem with numerous criteria and constraints on interactions within and between systems relevant to the problem.