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Why is IQWST the Right Choice for Middle School Science?

Phenomenon-Driven, 3-Dimensional Learning

  • Research-based and Supported by National Science Foundation (NSF)
  • Aligns with Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)
  • Flexibility to meet ALL state standards
  • Literacy Focus: reading, writing, talking, and doing science
  • Student-Driven Learning

Instructional Design with Teachers in Mind

  • Teacher Edition: lesson plans, discussion questions, differentiation strategies, and background information
  • Interactive Digital Edition that integrates with leading Learning Management Systems
  • Video Tutorials: background knowledge & activity setups
  • Embedded Content and Pedagogical Support
  • Interactive Student Notebook that Integrates Lab, Reading, and Writing Activities
  • Digital Assessments to Drive Student Learning

Professional Development

  • Online Teacher Support and Webinars
  • Lesson Modeling
  • Educational Resource Specialists


IQWST® (Investigating and Questioning our World through Science and Technology), which transforms adolescents into scientists, was developed over a decade by science education, literacy, and learning science specialists from the University of Michigan, Northwestern University, Michigan State University, and the Weizmann Institute of Science, supported by funding from the National Science Foundation. Students investigate questions relevant to their lives by conducting investigations; collecting and analyzing data; developing and using models to explain phenomena, and engaging in argument from evidence, all in a literacy and discourse-rich environment.

Lessons are organized into thematic units such as Can I Believe My Eyes? (Physical Science) and What's Going on Inside Me? (Life Science), that support students as they build an understanding of core ideas in science as well as understanding and use of scientific practices. Students also pursue their own original questions in units that integrate the fundamentals of Physical Sciences, Life Science, and Earth & Space Science.

As research indicates, and the Framework for K-12 Science Education and NGSS describe, students learn best when they use coherent materials that support them in building understanding over time.

Examples include:

  • Sixth-graders learn about species interactions in ecosystems by investigating data from real-world examples of invasive species.
  • Seventh-graders explore properties, chemical reactions, and the conservation of mass by making their own soap materials they have investigated across multiple lessons.
  • Eighth-graders race, jump and crawl in the classroom to measure properties of motion and create graphs based on physics equations.
  • Eighth-graders use a computer program to investigate a drop in the Galapagos Islands’ finch population.

By referencing real-world science with which students are familiar or have personal experience, science learning has value to diverse students who can apply what they are learning to their everyday lives. Our learning-by-doing pedagogical approach — paired with the expertise of Dr. LeeAnn (Sutherland) Adams, Michigan State Professor Joe Krajcik, Northwestern University Professor Brian Reiser, and Weizmann Institute Senior Scientist David Fortus — engages students as active learners and makes science come alive in ways that research has shown best support the broad range of learners found in every classroom.

IQWST Authors

IQWST® (Investigating & Questioning Our World Through Science & Technology) was developed through grant funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF). The development team has combined expertise in science education, literacy education, and the learning sciences. The team was led by Principal Investigators Joe Krajcik, Ph.D., Brian Reiser, Ph.D., LeeAnn Sutherland, Ph.D., and David Fortus, Ph.D.

Joe Krajcik, Ph.D.

Michigan State University

Brian Reiser, Ph.D.

Northwestern University

David Fortus, Ph.D.

Weizmann Institute of Science

LeeAnn (Sutherland) Adams, Ph.D.
University of Michigan

Joe Krajcik has focused on working with science teachers to reform science teaching practices (3-Dimensional Learning) to promote students' learning of science. He was head of The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) Physical Science Design team and led the Physical Science Design Team for the Framework for K – 12 Science Education.

Brian J. Reiser worked with the National Research Council committee to develop the Framework for K-12 Science Education, which guided the design of The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).

David Fortus began his career as a science education researcher by developing learning environments that foster the transfer of scientific knowledge to real-world situations. Before joining the Weizmann Institute of Science, he was an assistant professor at Michigan State University, a high school physics teacher, and a project director in the aerospace industry.

LeeAnn Adams was the former Chief Academic Officer for Activate Learning. In addition to her ongoing work to guide the development of the IQWST curriculum, she plays an active role in conducting professional development related to literacy learning in the context of science education.

*This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Award No. DRL 0439352 and ESI 0101780. 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.



This document charts the alignment between IQWST® lessons and the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) performance expectations.

It is important to note that no single activity should be thought of as meeting an NGSS performance expectation (PE). Meeting a PE requires carefully sequenced activities, investigations, readings, discussions, and lessons that support students in building an understanding of a disciplinary core idea, crosscutting concept, and the multiple scientific practices involved in “making sense” of complex ideas. In contrast to the old practice of checking off a standard as “met” because it was taught on a given day, new standards demand a very different approach.

Click here to download the PDF full version of the IQWST NGSS Overview with descriptions.

Click here to learn more about 3-Dimensional Learning.

NGSS Alignment Badge - Practices, Content, Crosscutting


"This was the most extensive pilot process we ever went through. In March (2019) when we concluded the pilot our decision was close. We decided to go back and pilot again to evaluate the remote learning support and Activate Learning really stepped up, delivering great professional learning support and a remote learning plan."


Hueneme Elementary School District

“IQWST is based upon the development of student understanding through student-focused activities, reading and writing articles, and spirited claim, evidence, reasoning, discussions. I have not come across a text series in 25 years of education that approaches science education in this manner. ”



Indian Prairie School District, #204