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Disciplinary Core Ideas (DCI)

DCI in Physical Science
DCI in Life Science
DCI in Earth and Space
DCI in Engineering, Technology, and the Application of Science

Defining Disciplinary Core Ideas

According to National Research Council’s Framework for K–12 Science Education, disciplinary core ideas are the important concepts in each of four domains: physical sciences, life sciences, Earth and space sciences, and engineering, technology, and applications of science. These ideas are considered to be important within each domain over multiple disciplines and serve as key organizing concepts. The DCI serve as a way to organize both the domains and performance expectations of the NGSS.


The DCI can be distilled and understood through defining questions, as described in the framework. These defining questions can be answered at developmentally appropriate levels across all grades. The framework suggests grade band endpoints for each DCI. In the NGSS, DCI are addressed in relevant K–5, middle school, and high school performance expectations. In addition, the DCI within and between domains can be connected using the crosscutting concepts.


In Exploring Our Fluid Earth, disciplinary core ideas are aligned with Special Features, Activities, or Question Sets. Disciplinary core ideas are also embedded in Performance Expectations, which are aligned at the topic level.


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Fig. 2.20. Solar evaporation pond for salt production in Ile de Ré, France

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Image courtesy of World Imaging from Wikipedia

For example, this curriculum addresses the DCI ETS2.B (Influence of Engineering, Technology, and Science on Society and the Natural World) through the Traditional Ways of Knowing Special Feature Salt Harvesting (Fig. 2.20).

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Exploring Our Fluid Earth, a product of the Curriculum Research & Development Group (CRDG), College of Education. University of Hawaii, 2011. This document may be freely reproduced and distributed for non-profit educational purposes.