Tangible Explore Experiences for the NGSS Classroom

Over the last few weeks, we have looked at the 5E Model and how to use it to design your NGSS-aligned instructional sequences.  We first took a bird’s view of the model and how to use it, and then we looked more closely at what types of activities make great Engage experiences.  Now, we are going to shift our focus to the Explore stage.

In this phase, students are given the time and opportunity to “explore” their current understanding and demonstrate what they already know as they attempt to make sense of the Engage activity.  Students are investigating phenomena, discussing their ideas, and beginning to formulate possible explanations. The teacher’s role in this stage is to provide the appropriate background information and materials for students to carry out the activity.  Then, the teacher becomes a facilitator — listening, observing, and guiding students as they attempt to make sense of what they had observed.


Investigations are a great Explore activity, because they are very “hands on” and when done well, are also very “minds on” — meaning, they are naturally going to require students to use their brains.  


Simulations can be another great tool to use in the Explore phase.  Simulations are similar to investigations, except that they allow us to study topics that are too difficult to bring directly into the classroom.  

Engineering Design Challenges:

Engineering design challenges can be another way to engage students in Explore activities, particularly when the standard directly ties into those engineering practices.  That said, you can use an engineering design challenge even when it doesn’t.

Creating Models:

Creating models is an amazing Explore activity when it is done well. In the Explore stage, models are three dimensional representations of a phenomenon that students can manipulate to determine what best explains the phenomenon.

Card Sorts:

Card sorts are one of my favorite Explore activities because they are just so simple! They are perfect for concepts that relate to grouping, comparing, or contrasting. Card sorts can even be used to create hierarchies – looking at the movement of energy and matter – or food webs.

Observation Stations:

Like card sorts, observation stations are another simple Explore activity that work well with grouping, comparing, or contrasting phenomena.  

Models, Graphs, & Data:

Like using models, presenting students with graphs and/or data can be a great way to integrate science practices into your Explore activities.