In the integrated version of IQWST, each of the 12 modules integrates at least two disciplines: Physics, Chemistry, Life Science, Earth Science, and/or Engineering Design. At IQWST’s foundation is the latest research on how students learn and how they learn science in particular, the very research on which the Framework for K–12 Science Education and the Next Generation Science Standards are also based. At its core, IQWST engages students in scientific practices as they experience, investigate, model, and explain phenomena while learning core ideas and engaging in concepts that cross disciplinary boundaries. Students build understanding by connecting ideas from lesson to lesson, from module to module, and across the middle grades. Following are the long-standing core tenets of IQWST. The curriculum is:

Phenomena-driven: Students experience phenomena firsthand where possible, secondhand when not possible, but always so that the goal of science learning is to be able to explain phenomena—to explain how and why things in the natural world happen as they do.

Coherent: Students build understanding through a progression within each grade level and across grade levels, learning critical Disciplinary Core Ideas, Crosscutting Concepts, and Science and Engineering Practices across content areas and grades. Curricular coherence—revising and building on ideas across time—provides students with opportunities to develop, reinforce, and apply their understandings on an ongoing basis throughout their middle school years.

Three dimensional: Every lesson engages students in one or more Practices and one or more Crosscutting Concepts, as student understanding of core ideas builds so that they are poised to meet every CA NGSS standard over time. For teacher planning purposes, PEs are called out at the beginning of IQWST lessons, and all three components of 3D learning are called out at the beginning of each lesson’s activities.

Disciplinary Core Ideas are typically addressed in multiple lessons, with the aim of developing depth of understanding rather than simply achieving coverage. Scientific practices are used singly or in combination so that students engage meaningfully in the work of scientists as they explore and learn core ideas. Crosscutting Concepts thread throughout the curriculum repeatedly revisited so that students construct a deep understanding of the ideas as they apply to each science discipline.

Student-centered: Students’ original questions are at the core of the curriculum, elicited by an anchoring phenomenon on day one or two and throughout each module, setting them on a quest to find answers to authentic questions that motivate learning across time.

Discourse centered: Combining small-group and whole-group discussion in every lesson, with talk supported by tools such as a Driving Question Board, a Word Wall, and others, students have multiple opportunities to hear and to use the language of science. Talk is used as a way to share ideas, think together, problem solve, and make sense of in-class science, everyday experiences, and the larger world.

For all: IQWST engages all students with shared phenomena, common investigations, and opportunities to draw upon and connect their everyday life experiences with science content. As students read, write, and talk about their experiences in a language-rich environment, every student has the opportunity to achieve success in STEM. Brief descriptions of related engineering careers are interwoven with each engineering design activity in the SE, and biographies of diverse scientists and engineers, available on the Student Portal, enable students to see the career paths that people who may be “like themselves” have taken, providing evidence that everyone has the potential to succeed in STEM.