IQWST Reviewers Guide


Reviewers Guide

Welcome to IQWST

Dr. LeeAnn (Sutherland) Adams

CAO at Activate

Before IQWST, “doing science” meant reading about science, listening to a teacher talk about science, taking notes, memorizing a lot of information, and following the scientific method when the class periodically did an experiment. When my colleagues and I developed IQWST, we based its design, pedagogies, and practices on research on how students learn. Our team includes educators who became authors and leaders of A Framework for K-12 Science Education and the NGSS, by people with expertise in language and literacy, and by teachers in diverse districts across the U.S. IQWST’s pedagogies are rooted in the same research that drove the development of the Framework and the NGSS.

When students engage deeply with science ideas—not just with activities, equipment or computers—our passions are also ignited as we watch them learn. In this age of critique of and threats to our profession, we know that thinking, reasoning, applying science ideas to new contexts, collaboration, and analyzing evidence are extremely important aspects of what we do.

What Does IQWST Stand For?

IQWST (pronounced I-Quest) was intentionally designed for the NGSS. Students learn to connect what they learn to important things in the world. In our curriculum, phenomena are the starting point. Rather than memorizing facts, students build understanding by connecting ideas across disciplines and across the middle grades. Students who do IQWST are empowered to seek answers to their own questions.

What Does IQWST Stand For?

What’s in my Sample Box?

Each one of your reviewer boxes contains your print copies of IQWST teacher and student editions for your requested grade level. Each box also contains one yellow IQWST Overview book, this will enable you to get the big picture of IQWST, including curriculum integration, and synopses of all 12 modules.

Can I See the IQWST Interactive Digital Edition?

Yes, login using the credentials we’ve provided below! Wondering how to navigate IQWST IDE for the first time or what we have in store? Don’t worry, we’ll cover that too.

Log-in link: https://cadoe-demo.iqwst.com/webapp/

Teacher Username: democa@activatelearning.com 

Teacher Password: CAdoe1920 

Here’s that quick navigation overview video:

Log-in link: https://cadoe-demo.iqwst.com/webapp/

Student Username: samplestudent  

Student Password: 12345678

Here’s a sneak peek at the IQWST/LMS integration (works in Blackboard):

What are some features that make IQWST Interactive
Digital Edition (IDE) Unique?

Students Can:

  • Record responses, draw models, write explanations
  • Receive feedback from teachers
  • Record questions and make thinking visible
  • Read and listen to informational text and annotate and highlight
  • Hear read-aloud audio of all lessons, informational text, and biographies/career narratives

Teachers Can:

  • Create and deliver on-line assessments
  • Score and comment on student work
  • Display multiple student models for whole-class sharing
  • Watch lab set-up videos
  • Upload scores to LMS

Why start with phemomena?

“Phenomena" is one of the most ubiquitous words to come of the NGSS and the new science curriculum world. But why is starting with a phenomenon important? One way to think about phenomena is that they anchor experiences that make students ask questions, and IQWST makes asking and answering questions central.

Learn more about phenomena and NGSS from one of the IQWST authors, Dr. Brian Reiser, in the video

What about the Three Dimensions?

The concept of 3-Dimensional Curriculum is everywhere right now, but what does it really mean? Teaching science in 3-Dimensions means taking a holistic view of science and training students to think about science the way scientists do.

The three dimensions are: Cross-Cutting Concepts, Science & Engineering Practices, and Disciplinary Core Ideas. When research scientists conduct experiments or examine data, they must use these three dimensions: there are concepts that apply across all areas of science, there are practices that scientists and engineers use to answer questions, and there are facts and information specific to each discipline that must be learned and used to build knowledge.

IQWST puts the students in the shoes of scientists and encourages them to ask questions that are meaningful to them personally and then use these three areas of scientific exploration to answer them.

After all, science is just a way of looking at the world and answering questions. We want students to leave their IQWST curriculum feeling empowered to use science to understand the world around them! Learn more about three dimensional learning from one of the IQWST authors, Dr. Joe Krajcik

So how does this all fit together in IQWST?


Driving Questions

Each IQWST unit focuses on a Driving Question, which is also the unit’s title. A Driving Question is a open-ended question that uses everyday language to situate science content in contexts that are meaningful to middle school students. As each unit progresses, students change and revise their prior conceptions of disciplinary core ideas learned in conjunction with the us of practices and lens of crosscutting concepts.

IQWST Lessons start and finish with anchoring phenomena: 

Brian Reiser, Northwestern University, Storylines Presentation, NSELA, April 2, 2014 

What is a
Driving Question Board? 

The Driving Question Board tracks questions, investigations, models, and explanations that show students how they have “made sense” of content, across time, as a coherent story.

Example DQB:

Example Lessons:

In the unit on space and gravity, students use an embroidery hoop and a marble to represent a planet and the sun’s gravity. They learn about the relationship between inertia and gravity to understand orbits. It’s a very simple, but very fun and energetic, way for students to learn about movement in a hands-on way!

Coherent Storyline Builds Over Time:

Sample Storyline:

IQWST’s storyline approach has always been to use a Driving Question as the module title as well as the project or problem around which each module is built. That is, students build understanding of DCIs, CCCs, and SEPs in a coherent manner from one lesson to the next, with each activity ending with a new question or a not-yet-solved problem that is addressed in the following activity. Hence, from a student perspective, a story is built from lesson to lesson within each module, with the aim of answering the Driving Question as a complete, evidence-based explanation.

Looking for our standards maps? See each grade level map below:

6th Grade CA Standards Map

7th Grade CA Standards Map

8th Grade CA Standards Map

Okay, I’m intrigued! How can I review IQWST effectively to see if it’s right for my district?

Let’s see if any of the statements apply to your district’s needs, and how IQWST facilitates these criteria.

It’s important that our curriculum is in [print/digital/hybrid].

IQWST can be used in any modality. Unlike some curricula, IQWST is fully functional even in a 100% print adoption. We also have the entire program available in a fully digital platform that can integrate with your learning management system. We can also provide a hybrid model in which both print and digital materials complement one another to help your students learn in many ways.

It’s important to me that a curriculum provides support
for all types of learners.

Universal Design for Learning

We want to make sure our curriculum as written is accessible for all kinds of learners. We’ve made sure our readings are audio recorded, our readings are “chunked" to make them more understandable for students at all reading levels, and we’ve included supplemental resources (some authored by our IQWST teacher community!) for augmentation or differentiation.

The Word Wall

Big “science words" can be overwhelming for English Language Learners or students at lower literacy levels. That’s why we let students choose their own vocabulary words and keep the words posted on the wall of your classroom. They can see the word as written, without being overwhelmed by spelling or memorization, but learn the more important skills of explaining what the words mean!

Supplemental Resources

One of the best parts of IQWST is that we use experiences from real teachers to make sure your students have the best outcomes possible. Built into the IQWST digital platform is a database of tried & tested practices that can supplement or augment your classroom experience (check under “Lesson Planning Resources" in your digital platform).

Equity and engagement

No curriculum can solve the underlying problems of equity and access to quality education in school districts. We can all provide resources to help, like IQWST’s literacy strategies, but the underlying issues will still remain. That’s why we need to train our students to be engaged and active thinkers and doers, so that they can complete their education and be ready to go out into the world and ask the hard questions. We teach students to think critically, solve problems, and ask questions, so that they can become the citizens who make a difference for future generations!

I want to be sure my implementation process is easy for our district, my colleagues, and my students.

Implementing new curriculum, especially as the requirements and needs of districts change with NGSS, can be a little overwhelming. Activate Learning makes implementing IQWST’s novel pedagogical methods easy.  We have robust teacher editions that fully prepare your teachers for the classroom.  We include optional suggestions for scripts for your class period, but remember, they are just suggestions! We also encourage flexibility and innovation in the classroom.

Activate Learning will provide…


One of the best parts of IQWST is that we use experiences from real teachers to make sure your students have the best outcomes possible. Built into the IQWST digital platform is a database of tried & tested practices that can supplement or augment your classroom experience (check under “Lesson Planning Resources" in your digital platform).

PLC Partnership

Weekly sessions led by trained teacher leaders.
Monthly sessions with NGSS and other experts.
Iterative design based on teacher needs

Ongoing Support

Dedicated district support.
On the ground support from staff
IQWST Educators Facebook and Twitter Community
Buildt-in support for background knowledge, pedagogical strategies

Growth Oppertunities

Cultivate cadre of teacher leaders
Increase oppertunities for all students to learn

Materials Kits

We provide everything you need to teach a unit, straight out of the box, organized in lesson bags.

Pocket Labs

For adoptions in 2020, schools will be able to use PocketLabs devices in IQWST, giving students a whole new way to analyze, share, and compare data. PocketLabs can connect to any device using while using the IQWST Digital platform.

STEM Gauge

Formative assessment resources support the transition to NGSS

– Items are ranked by DOK level

– Each constructed response questions comes with a rubric to assist with grading

– These item banks are QTI compatible and can integrate into your assessment programs


– Alternatives for students to show what they know and are able to do

– Auto-Scored.Generates whole-class and individual reports for the teacher

– Generates feedback for individual students

– Provides a wayforward: What do to with formative information

– Supports differentiation


We include STEMGauge NGSS assessment tasks with rubrics that are QTI 2.1 ready to work in your learning management system.

ONPAR Innovative Formative Assessment
(Included with IQWST IDE)

ONPAR is an online classroom assessment system, designed to be accessible to all students. ONPAR cuts down on the language barrier in assessment tasks. ONPAR’s multimedia features together present the concepts and provide accessible pathways for students to understand and respond to questions. The focus of the assessment is on the content concepts rather than the language of the test.

The picture to the right shows a typical ONPAR assessment task that contains color graphics to set the context.

Onpar provides automatic:

 Student Feedback Reports

 Teacher Feedback Reports

 Overall Class Reports

Here’s an automated student report: 

Here’s an automated teacher report:

Thanks for Reviewing IQWST

Studies have shown that the best predictor of standardized test performance (across groups) is curriculum coherence—revisiting ideas and building understanding across time.

Memorizing a definition of temperature or the factors that affect it is satisfying neither for them nor for us, compared to watching students apply developing understandings to their everyday experiences of why garbage smells worse in the summer, or why dark clothes make them feel hot, or to other unique questions posed in the course of learning. Supporting deep, authentic learning is educators’ responsibility and IQWST’s primary purpose.

Thanks for considering IQWST!

Dr. LeeAnn Adams
IQWST Author, CA Edition Development, Chief Academic Officer at Activate Learning