Reviewer's Guide

Welcome to IQWST


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?

Can I See the IQWST Interactive Digital Edition?

Yes, here's how to navigate IQWST IDE for the first time and how we integrate with LMS systems.

Here's that quick navigation overview video:

Here's a look at the IQWST/LMS integration (works in Google Classroom, Canvas, and Schoology):

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 online 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 phenomena?

"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 is Three-Dimensional Learning?

The three dimensions are:

  • Cross-Cutting Concepts
  • Science & Engineering Practices
  • Disciplinary Core Ideas.

When 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.

-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 an 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 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 an 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.

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...


We'll work with you to create the perfect PD strategy for yearly teacher training & ongoing support.

Professional Learning

Monthly sessions with expert teacher leaders and Activate staff.

Ongoing Support

Dedicated district support via Activate staff and our  IQWST Educators community group.

Growth Opportunities

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


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.


We provide simulations for lab investigations in the IQWST program.

Hands-On Materials

We make hands-on learning easy with materials in lesson bags, materials lists, and lab setup videos.

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:

Thank You 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.