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2020 CAS - Science Standards Introduction



Purpose of Science

“Science is facts; just as houses are made of stone, so is science made of facts; but a pile of stones is not a house, and a collection of facts is not necessarily science.” --Jules Henri Poincaré (1854-1912) French mathematician.

High expectations in education are essential for the U.S. to continue as a world leader in the 21st century. In order to be successful in postsecondary education, the workforce, and in life, students need a rigorous, age-appropriate set of standards that include finding and gathering information, critical thinking, and reasoning skills to evaluate information, and use information in social and cultural contexts. Students must learn to comprehend and process information, analyze and draw conclusions, and apply the results to everyday life.

A quality science education embodies 21st century skills and postsecondary and workforce readiness by teaching students critical skills and thought processes to meet the challenges of today’s world. Scientifically literate graduates will help to ensure Colorado’s economic vitality by encouraging the development of research and technology, managing and preserving our environmental treasures, and caring for the health and well-being of our citizens.

Science is both a body of knowledge that represents the current understanding of natural systems, and the process whereby that body of knowledge has been established and is continually extended, refined, and revised. Because science is both the knowledge of the natural world and the processes that have established this knowledge, science education must address both of these aspects.

At a time when pseudo-scientific ideas and outright fraud are becoming more common place, developing the skepticism and critical thinking skills of science gives students vital skills needed to make informed decisions about their health, the environment, and other scientific issues facing society. A major aspect of science is the continual interpretation of evidence. All scientific ideas constantly are being challenged by new evidence and are evolving to fit the new evidence. Students must understand the collaborative social processes that guide these changes so they can reason through and think critically about popular scientific information, and draw valid conclusions based on evidence, which often is limited. Imbedded in the cognitive process, students learn and apply the social and cultural skills expected of all citizens in school and in the workplace. For example, during class activities, laboratory exercises, and projects, students learn and practice self-discipline, collaboration, and working in groups.

The Colorado Academic Standards in science represent what all Colorado students should know and be able to do in science as a result of their preschool through twelfth-grade science education. Specific expectations are given for students who complete each grade from preschool through eighth grade and for high school. These standards outline the essential level of science content knowledge and the application of the skills needed by all Colorado citizens to participate productively in our increasingly global, information-driven society.


Prepared Graduates in Science

  1. Students can use the full range of science and engineering practices to make sense of natural phenomena and solve problems that require understanding structure, properties and interactions of matter.
  2. Students can use the full range of science and engineering practices to make sense of natural phenomena and solve problems that require understanding interactions between objects and within systems of objects.
  3. Students can use the full range of science and engineering practices to make sense of natural phenomena and solve problems that require understanding how energy is transferred and conserved.
  4. Students can use the full range of science and engineering practices to make sense of natural phenomena and solve problems that require understanding how waves are used to transfer energy and information.
  5. Students can use the full range of science and engineering practices to make sense of natural phenomena and solve problems that require understanding how individual organisms are configured and how these structures function to support life, growth, behavior and reproduction.
  6. Students can use the full range of science and engineering practices to make sense of natural phenomena and solve problems that require understanding how living systems interact with the biotic and abiotic environment.
  7. Students can use the full range of science and engineering practices to make sense of natural phenomena and solve problems that require understanding how genetic and environmental factors influence variation of organisms across generations.
  8. Students can use the full range of science and engineering practices to make sense of natural phenomena and solve problems that require understanding how natural selection drives biological evolution accounting for the unity and diversity of organisms.
  9. Students can use the full range of science and engineering practices to make sense of natural phenomena and solve problems that require understanding the universe and Earth's place in it.
  10. Students can use the full range of science and engineering practices to make sense of natural phenomena and solve problems that require understanding how and why Earth is constantly changing.
  11. Students can use the full range of science and engineering practices to make sense of natural phenomena and solve problems that require understanding how human activities and the Earth's surface processes interact.

Standards in Science

Standards are the topical organization of an academic content area. The three standards of science, including the disciplinary core ideas, are:

  1. Physical Science

Students know and understand common properties, forms, and changes in matter and energy.

                PS1  Matter and Its Interactions

                PS2  Motion and Stability: Forces and Interactions

                PS3  Energy

                PS4  Waves and Their Applications in Technologies for Information Transfer

  1. Life Science

Students know and understand the characteristics and structure of living things, the processes of life, and how living things interact with each other and their environment.

                LS1  From Molecules to Organisms: Structures and Processes

                LS2  Ecosystems: Interactions, Energy, and Dynamics

                LS3  Heredity: Inheritance and Variation of Traits

                LS4  Biological Evolution: Unity and Diversity

  1. Earth and Space Science

Students know and understand the processes and interactions of Earth's systems and the structure and dynamics of Earth and other objects in space.

                ESS1  Earth’s Place in the Universe

                ESS2  Earth’s Systems

                ESS3  Earth ad Human Activity

Science and Engineering Practices

  1. Asking questions (for science) and defining problems (for engineering)
  2. Developing and using models
  3. Planning and carrying out investigations
  4. Analyzing and interpreting data
  5. Using mathematics and computational thinking
  6. Constructing explanations (for science) and designing solutions (for engineering)
  7. Engaging in argument from evidence
  8. Obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information

Cross Cutting Concepts

  1. Patterns. Observed patterns of forms and events guide organization and classification, and they prompt questions about relationships and the factors that influence them.
  2. Cause and effect: Mechanism and explanation. Events have causes, sometimes simple, sometimes multifaceted. A major activity of science is investigating and explaining causal relationships and the mechanisms by which they are mediated. Such mechanisms can then be tested across given contexts and used to predict and explain events in new contexts.
  3. Scale, proportion, and quantity. In considering phenomena, it is critical to recognize what is relevant at different measures of size, time, and energy and to recognize how changes in scale, proportion, or quantity affect a system’s structure or performance.
  4. Systems and system models. Defining the system under study—specifying its boundaries and making explicit a model of that system—provides tools for understanding and testing ideas that are applicable throughout science and engineering.
  5. Energy and matter: Flows, cycles, and conservation. Tracking fluxes of energy and matter into, out of, and within systems helps one understand the systems’ possibilities and limitations.
  6. Structure and function. The way in which an object or living thing is shaped and its substructure determine many of its properties and functions.
  7. Stability and change. For natural and built systems alike, conditions of stability and determinants of rates of change or evolution of a system are critical elements of study.

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