The Interactions curriculum introduces students to science as an endeavor, a process we engage in, rather than solely a set of discoveries by others. Through engaging in modeling and scientific explanation students explore curious aspects of the everyday world, discovering how the unseen world of atomic level interactions and energy transformations are responsible for much of what we observe around us.

  • Designed from the ground up to support the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and three dimensional learning.
  • For 9th grade physical or integrated science students.

Curriculum Overview

Fundamental forces, unseen yet felt in every moment of our existence, govern the interactions of matter and energy that in turn shape our lives. By understanding these forces, we create a foundation that supports doing and understanding modern sciences and technologies. Why do clothes stick together when they come out of the dryer? How is it that a tiny spark can trigger an explosion? Working from these and other questions, students start their explorations by asking their own questions and discussing what they already know. They observe phenomena, engage in hands on activities and use online simulations to collect evidence. From their evidence, they construct mental models of the forces that drive interesting phenomena and test their models by predicting further events. Learn more »

The Interactions curricular materials are provided under the terms of the Creative Commons CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 license. If redistributing the materials you must give appropriate credit and indicate if any changes were made. You may do so in any reasonable manner, but not in any way that suggests the licensor endorses you or your use. You may not use the materials for commercial purposes. If you remix, transform, or build upon the material, you must distribute your contributions under the same license as the original. As noted within the materials, some images, videos, and simulations may have different licensing, either more restrictive or more open than the CC-BY-NC-SA license.

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Featured in NSTA Video Series

Watch these eight videos to discover important strategies on the Framework for K-12 Science Education and the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). Learn about major shifts in science instruction and the new role of the teacher.

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NGSS Design Badge

Awarded: Mar 13, 2018

Awarded To: Interactions Unit 1 - Why do some clothes stick together when they come out of the dryer?


  • Unit 1 - Part 1: Why do some clothes stick together when they come out of the dryer?

  • Unit 1 - Part 2: Why do some clothes stick together when they come out of the dryer?

  • Unit 2 - Part 1: How does a small spark trigger a huge explosion?

  • Unit 2 - Part 2: How does a small spark trigger a huge explosion?

  • Unit 3: What powers a hurricane?

  • Unit 4: Why is a temperature of 107 degrees deadly?

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For more details about the NSF project that funded this curriculum, visit the Interactions project web page.


The Concord Consortium CREATE for STEM

This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. DRL-1232388. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

Curriculum Overview

This NGSS aligned curriculum is designed to support high school physical science students in developing an understanding of the forces and energy involved in atomic and molecular interactions. The year-long Interactions curriculum could be used in a physical science class, or tweaked to embed activities into a chemistry class. Interactions can be offered as a paper-pencil curriculum with the teacher facilitating web based simulation activities on a classroom computer, or it can be offered completely online for classrooms where students have personal (or shared) computers. In particular, students will:

These goals support students in building a foundation that prepares them for explaining and making predictions about important phenomena in all science disciplines.

The design principles and goals used to guide the development of the materials include:

The curriculum consists of four units that focus on answering a driving question designed to engage students in the learning goal and help them relate and build connections among ideas developed throughout the unit. Each unit is made up of a series of investigations, which are in turn consists of several activities. Driving questions and overviews for each unit are included below.

Unit 1: Why do some clothes stick together when they come out of the dryer?

Students develop a model of electric interactions to explain electrostatic phenomena. To develop and revise their models, students collect evidence related to how charged objects interact with other objects. They develop a particulate model of materials and a model of atomic structure to start building an understanding of the mechanism of charging objects.

Unit 2: How does a small spark trigger a huge explosion?

Students further develop their model of electrostatic interactions by incorporating the relationship between electric potential energy and electric forces. In particular, the unit focuses on the electrostatic attractions and energy conversions involved in the formation of molecules (chemical reactions).

Unit 3: What powers a hurricane?

Students use their models of molecular structure to explain and predict observed properties of materials. Then, students analyze and compare the energy transformations and conversions that occur during phase changes and chemical reactions. The model of electric interactions expands to incorporate permanent dipoles at the molecular level.

Unit 4: Why is a temperature of 107 degrees deadly?

Students explore how molecular interactions in water based environments are important for life and result in shapes necessary for biological functions. Students will apply the notion of stability and energy to describe how a fever can disrupt biologically important molecules (proteins). They will use simulations to see how temperature changes can affect the binding structure of proteins.

More About Pedagogical Approach & Unit Outlines