A full-year, NSF-funded curriculum that embraces the three-dimensional learning of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) for ALL students.

Three-Dimensional, Project-Based Learning

  • Science and engineering practices, crosscutting concepts, and core ideas are seamlessly integrated.
  • Each chapter is anchored in an interesting and meaningful challenge.
  • Students use their new chemistry knowledge to creatively solve their Chapter Challenges.

Students Learn Like Scientists and Engineers

  • Students develop important 21st century skills as they work collaboratively in groups and engage in science discourse.
  • Students engage in the Engineering Design Cycle as they iteratively work towards completing the Chapter Challenge.
  • The program is based on cognitive science research encapsulated in the 7E Instructional Model.

Total Support for Teachers

  • Student Edition and a comprehensive Teacher’s Edition are available in print and digital formats.
  • Our Learning Community provides teachers with resources to prepare lessons as well as share and compare with other teachers in an online community.
  • Online resources include daily lesson plans, pre-quizzes, student misconceptions, differentiation strategies, as well as support videos.

View NGSS Alignment

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Active Physical Science fosters scientifically literate students who will be prepared for the workforce, able to make informed decisions, and contribute as productive citizens in the 21st century.

Active Physical Science is research based.
Active Physical Science was supported through National Science Foundation funding and consequently produced through rigorous, iterative, research-based development cycles. It is based on the latest research from the cognitive sciences on how students learn.

Active Physical Science students develop communication and collaboration skills.
In Active Physical Science, students develop a community of practice and a culture of collaboration and communication. The presentations of the Chapter Challenges provide students with opportunities to engage in scientific arguments using evidence and science knowledge, and promote a deeper understanding through public practice.

Active Physical Science fits your standards.
The program reflects the full scope of physical science content standards for high school—those identified as the Disciplinary Core Ideas in A Framework for K-12 Science Education and those of individual states and districts.


Chapter 1: Driving the roads

Chapter Challenge: Students demonstrate their knowledge of the physics of driving by making a presentation to a board of driving instructors.

Through a series of activities, students learn about average and instantaneous speed and then connect information about reaction time, speed, and velocity to tailgating. They explore acceleration, positive and negative, in the context of the time required to bring a vehicle to a stop and decision-making at a yellow light. They also learn about centripetal force and acceleration and relate it to driving on curves.

Chapter 2: Safety

Chapter Challenge: Students design a safety system to protect passengers during a collision.

Students use Newton’s first law to describe what happens during a collision and apply the concept of pressure to the design of a seatbelt. They observe the effect of spreading a force over a greater distance and explain their observations using the work-energy theorem. After exploring the effects of a rear-end collision, they use Newton’s laws to describe how whiplash occurs. Students investigate the law of conservation of momentum by analyzing collisions. They measure velocity and force on a vehicle during impact and describe the relationship between impulse and momentum.

Chapter 3: Thrills and Chills

Chapter Challenge: Students modify the design of a roller coaster to meet the needs of a specific group of riders.

Students use gravitational and potential energy to explain their observations of a ball rolling down an incline and a swinging pendulum. They investigate spring potential energy and explore the law of conservation of energy. They determine the relationship between gravitational force and distance. Students learn about the difference between mass and weight, and determine Hooke’s law and calculate spring potential energy. Newton’s second law for net forces is used to analyze a free-body diagram for objects undergoing acceleration. Students investigate centripetal force and apply it to a roller coaster. They pull a mass up different routes to a fixed height and develop a definition of work and its relationship to power. Students develop concept maps on force and energy and explore examples of each on a roller coaster.

Chapter 4: Electricity for Everyone

Chapter Challenge: Students design an appliance package for a family home that is powered by a wind-driven generator.

Students explore current, voltage, and resistance in parallel and series circuits. They create a simple fuse and calculate load limits of a household circuit. Students investigate heat transfer and learn about the laws of thermodynamics and entropy. They calculate the efficiency of various water heaters and apply this to designing their appliance package.

Chapter 5: Fun with the Periodic Table

Chapter Challenge: Students develop a game to learn about and use the periodic table.

Students study the physical and chemical properties of elements and use the information to categorize elements as metals and nonmetals. They then learn about atoms, atomic mass, the law of definite proportions, and they discover how the model of an atom has changed over time. Students observe the spectra of several elements and learn about ionization potentials. Next, the students learn about the noble gases and discover the octet rule. Finally, students examine how the average atomic mass of an element is determined, the factors that affect nuclear stability, and the difference between fission and fusion.

Chapter 6: Ideal Toy

Chapter Challenge: Students create a toy that uses various chemical and/or gas principles.

Students use the metal-activity series to construct electrochemical cells and explore the nanoscopic concepts of redox reactions. They use models to connect the size and shape of a molecule to its properties. They learn about Boyle’s law by examining volume changes with pressure changes in a syringe and changes in buoyancy with pressure changes. They explore Charles’s law in the context of hot-air balloons and generate and test hydrogen, oxygen, and carbon dioxide. using the knowledge they have gained, students determine the volume of one mole of oxygen gas and calculate the gas-law constant. Then they learn about Graham’s law by observing the effusion of hydrogen and carbon dioxide.

Chapter 7: Cool Chemistry show

Chapter Challenge: Students develop a demonstration of chemistry concepts for a grade-school audience.

Students observe characteristics of a chemical reaction and use indicators to identify acids and bases. They examine single- and double-replacement reactions and practice writing chemical equations. Students observe endothermic and exothermic reactions and factors that affect reaction rates. They explore the properties of acids and bases and the activity of metals.


Arthur Eisenkraft

University of Massachusetts

Dr. Arthur Eisenkraft has taught high school physics for over 28 years. He is currently the Distinguished Professor of Science Education at the University of Massachusetts, Boston, where he is also a Professor of Physics and the Director of the Center of Science and Math In Context (COSMIC). Dr. Eisenkraft is the author of numerous science and educational publications and holds a patent for a Laser Vision Testing System, which tests visual acuity for spatial frequency.

In 1999, Dr. Eisenkraft was elected to a three-year cycle as the President-Elect, President, and Retiring President of the NSTA, the world’s largest organization of science teachers. He has served on numerous committees of the National Academy of Sciences, including the content committee that has helped author the National Science Education Standards, and in 2003 he was elected a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). Dr. Eisenkraft has been involved with a number of projects and chaired many notable competitions, including the Toshiba/NSTA ExploraVisions Awards (1991 to present), which he co-created; the Toyota TAPESTRY Grants (1990 to 2005); and the Duracell/NSTA Scholarship Competition (1984 to 2000). In 1993, he served as Executive Director for the XXIV International Physics Olympiad after being Academic Director for the United States Team for six years.

Dr. Eisenkraft is a frequent presenter and keynote speaker at national conventions. He has published over 100 articles and presented over 200 papers and workshops. Quantoons, written with L. Kirkpatrick and featuring illustrations by Tomas Bunk, led to an art exhibition at the New York Hall of Science.

Dr. Eisenkraft has been featured in articles in The New York Times, Education Week, Physics Today, Scientific American, The American Journal of Physics, and The Physics Teacher. He has testified before the United States Congress, appeared on NBC’s The Today Show, National Public Radio, and many other radio and television broadcasts, including serving as the science consultant to ESPN’s Sports Figures.


The Activate Learning video team has traveled the nation visiting many different schools all engaged with our curricula. Watch to see how ALL of our learners are succeeding in investigation-centered STEM.


Active Chemistry – Overview – Becoming Student Scientists

Active Physics / Active Chemistry – Physics and Chemistry for All (OH)

Active Chemistry – Scores Go Up at King Drew High School (CA)


Active Chemistry – Case Study Part 1: Demographics at King Drew High School (CA)

Active Chemistry – Case Study Part 2: The Classroom and Beyond at King Drew High School (CA)

Active Chemistry – Case Study Part 3 : Results at King Drew High School (CA)


Active Physics/Active Chemistry – Olivia's Experience, Dublin Jerome High School, OH

Active Physics / Active Chemistry – Making an Impact with Project Based Learning (OH)

Active Chemistry / Active Physics – Intervention Specialist Experience (OH)