Disciplinary Core Ideas (DCI)

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DCI in Life 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 Sea Earth Atmosphere, disciplinary core ideas are organized at each grade level with units for Earth and Space Science, Life Science, and Phyisical Science. DCI are also aligned to some Special Features or Activities. 

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