Science is a way of knowing, a process for gaining knowledge and understanding
of the natural world. The Science Core Curriculum places emphasis on understanding
and using skills. Students should be active learners. It is not enough for students
to read about science; they must do science. They should observe, inquire, question,
formulate and test hypotheses, analyze data, report, and evaluate findings.
The students, as scientists, should have hands-on, active experiences throughout
the instruction of the science curriculum.
The Science Core describes what students should know and be able to do at the
end of each course. It was developed, critiqued, piloted, and revised by a community
of Utah science teachers, university science educators, State Office of Education
specialists, scientists, expert national consultants, and an advisory committee
representing a wide diversity of people from the community. The Core reflects
the current philosophy of science education that is expressed in national documents
developed by the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the
National Academies of Science. This Science Core has the endorsement of the
Utah Science Teachers Association. The Core reflects high standards of achievement
in science for all students.
Organization of the Science Core
The Core is designed to help teachers organize and deliver instruction. Elements
of the Core include the following:
- Each grade level begins with a brief course description.
- The INTENDED LEARNING OUTCOMES (ILOs) describe the goals for science skills
and attitudes. They are found at the beginning of each grade, and are an integral
part of the Core that should be included as part of instruction.
- The SCIENCE BENCHMARKS describe the science content students should know.
Each grade level has three to five Science Benchmarks. The ILOs and Benchmarks
intersect in the Standards, Objectives and Indicators.
- A STANDARD is a broad statement of what students are expected to understand.
Several Objectives are listed under each Standard.
- An OBJECTIVE is a more focused description of what students need to know
and be able to do at the completion of instruction. If students have mastered
the Objectives associated with a given Standard, they are judged to have mastered
that Standard at that grade level. Several Indicators are described for each
- An INDICATOR is a measurable or observable student action that enables one
to judge whether a student has mastered a particular Objective. Indicators
are not meant to be classroom activities, but they can help guide classroom
- SCIENCE LANGUAGE STUDENTS SHOULD USE is a list of terms that students and
teachers should integrate into their normal daily conversations around science
topics. These are not vocabulary lists for students to memorize.
Seven Guidelines Were Used in Developing the Science Core
Reflects the Nature of Science: Science is a way
of knowing, a process for gaining knowledge and understanding of the natural
world. The Core is designed to produce an integrated set of Intended Learning
Outcomes (ILOs) for students.
As described in these ILOs, students will:
- Use science process and thinking skills.
- Manifest science interests and attitudes.
- Understand important science concepts and principles.
- Communicate effectively using science language and reasoning.
- Demonstrate awareness of the social and historical aspects of science.
- Understand the nature of science.
Coherent: The Core has been designed so that, wherever
possible, the science ideas taught within a particular grade level have a logical
and natural connection with each other and with those of earlier grades. Efforts
have also been made to select topics and skills that integrate well with one
another and with other subject areas appropriate to grade level. In addition,
there is an upward articulation of science concepts, skills, and content. This
spiraling is intended to prepare students to understand and use more complex
science concepts and skills as they advance through their science learning.
Developmentally Appropriate: The Core takes into
account the psychological and social readiness of students. It builds from concrete
experiences to more abstract understandings. The Core describes science language
students should use that is appropriate to their grade level. A more extensive
vocabulary should not be emphasized. In the past, many educators may have mistakenly
thought that students understood abstract concepts (such as the nature of the
atom) because they repeated appropriate names and vocabulary (such as "electron"
and "neutron"). The Core resists the temptation to describe abstract
concepts at inappropriate grade levels; rather, it focuses on providing experiences
with concepts that students can explore and understand in depth to build a foundation
for future science learning.
Encourages Good Teaching Practices: It is impossible
to accomplish the full intent of the Core by lecturing and having students read
from textbooks. The Science Core emphasizes student inquiry. Science process
skills are central in each standard. Good science encourages students to gain
knowledge by doing science: observing, questioning, exploring, making and testing
hypotheses, comparing predictions, evaluating data, and communicating conclusions.
The Core is designed to encourage instruction with students working in cooperative
groups. Instruction should connect lessons with students' daily lives.
The Core directs experiential science instruction for all students, not just
those who have traditionally succeeded in science classes.
Comprehensive: The Science Core does not cover all
topics that have traditionally been in the science curriculum; however, it does
provide a comprehensive background in science. By emphasizing depth rather than
breadth, the Core seeks to empower students rather than intimidate them with
a collection of isolated and forgettable facts. Teachers are free to add related
concepts and skills, but they are expected to teach all the standards and objectives
specified in the Core for their grade level.
Useful and Relevant: This curriculum relates directly
to student needs and interests. It is grounded in the natural world in which
we live. Relevance of science to other endeavors enables students to transfer
skills gained from science instruction into their other school subjects and
into their lives outside the classroom.
Encourages Good Assessment Practices: Student achievement
of the standards and objectives in this Core is best assessed using a variety
of assessment instruments. The purpose of an assessment should be clear to the
teacher as it is planned, implemented, and evaluated. Performance tests are
particularly appropriate to evaluate student mastery of science processes and
problem-solving skills. Teachers should use a variety of classroom assessment
approaches in conjunction with standard assessment instruments to inform their
instruction. Observation of students engaged in science activities
is highly recommended as a way to assess students' skills as well as attitudes
in science. The nature of the questions posed by students provides important
evidence of students' understanding of and interest in science.
Biology Core Curriculum
The Biology Core Curriculum has two primary goals: (1) students will value
and use science as a process of obtaining knowledge based on observable evidence,
and (2) students' curiosity will be sustained as they develop and refine
the abilities associated with scientific inquiry.
The Biology Core has three major concepts for the focus of instruction: (1)
the structures in all living things occur as a result of necessary functions.
(2) Interactions of organisms in an environment are determined by the biotic
and abiotic components of the environment. (3) Evolution of species occurs over
time and is related to the environment in which the species live.
Biology students should design and perform experiments, and value inquiry as
the fundamental scientific process. They should be encouraged to maintain an
open and questioning mind, to pose their own questions about objects, events,
processes, and results. They should have the opportunity to plan and conduct
their own experiments, and come to their own conclusions as they read, observe,
compare, describe, infer, and draw conclusions. The results of their experiments
need to be compared for reasonableness to multiple sources of information. They
should be encouraged to use reasoning as they apply biology concepts to their
Good science instruction requires hands-on science investigations in which
student inquiry is an important goal. Teachers should provide opportunities
for all students to experience many things. Students
should investigate living organisms from each kingdom. Laboratory investigations
should be frequent and meaningful components of biology instruction. Students
should enjoy science as a process of discovering and understanding the natural
Biology Core concepts should be integrated with concepts and skills from other
curriculum areas. Reading, writing, and mathematics skills should be emphasized
as integral to the instruction of science. Personal relevance of science in
students' lives is an important part of helping students to value science
and should be emphasized at this grade level. Developing students' writing skills
in science should be an important part of science instruction in biology. Students
should regularly write descriptions of their observations and experiments. Lab
journals are an effective way to emphasize the importance of writing in science.
Providing opportunities for students to gain insights into science related
careers adds to the relevance of science learning. Biology provides students
with an opportunity to investigate careers in genetics, biotechnology, wildlife
management, environmental science, and many fields of medicine.
Value for honesty, integrity, self-discipline, respect, responsibility, punctuality,
dependability, courtesy, cooperation, consideration, and teamwork should be
emphasized as an integral part of science learning. These relate to the care
of living things, safety and concern for self and others, and environmental
stewardship. Honesty in all aspects of research, experimentation, data collection,
and reporting is an essential component of science.
This Core was designed using the American Association for the Advancement of
Science's Project 2061: Benchmarks For Science Literacy and the
National Academy of Science's National Science Education Standards
as guides to determine appropriate content and skills.
The hands-on nature of science learning increases the need for teachers to use
appropriate precautions in the classroom and field. Proper handling and disposal
of chemicals is crucial for a safe classroom. The chemistry described in biology
can be accomplished using safe household chemicals and microchemistry techniques.
It is important that all students understand the rules for a safe classroom.
Appropriate Use of Living Things in the Science Classroom
It is important to maintain a safe, humane environment for animals in the classroom.
Field activities should be well thought out and use appropriate and safe practices.
Student collections should be done under the guidance of the teacher with attention
to the impact on the environment. The number and size of the samples taken for
the collections should be considered in light of the educational benefit. Some
organisms should not be taken from the environment, but rather observed and
described using photographs, drawings, or written descriptions to be included
in the student's collection. Teachers must adhere to the published guidelines
for the proper use of animals, equipment, and chemicals in the classroom. These
guidelines are available on the Utah Science Home Page.
The Most Important Goal
Science instruction should cultivate and build on students' curiosity
and sense of wonder. Effective science instruction engages students in enjoyable
learning experiences. Science instruction should be as thrilling an experience
for a student as opening a rock and seeing a fossil, tracing and interpreting
a pedigree, or observing the affects of some chemical on the heartbeat of daphnia.
Science is not just for those who have traditionally succeeded in the subject,
and it is not just for those who will choose science-related careers. In a world
of rapidly expanding knowledge and technology, all students must gain the skills
they will need to understand and function responsibly and successfully in the
world. The Core provides skills in a context that enables students to experience
the joy of doing science.
Core Standards of the Course
Ecosystems are shaped by interactions among living organisms and their physical environment. Ecosystems change constantly, either staying in a state of dynamic balance or shifting to a new state of balance. Matter cycles in ecosystems, and energy flows from outside sources through the system. Humans are part of ecosystems and can deliberately or inadvertently alter an ecosystem.
Students will understand that living organisms interact with one another and their environment.
Summarize how energy flows through an ecosystem.
Arrange components of a food chain according to energy flow.
Compare the quantity of energy in the steps of an energy pyramid.
Describe strategies used by organisms to balance the energy expended to obtain food to the energy gained from the food (e.g., migration to areas of seasonal abundance, switching type of prey based upon availability, hibernation or dormancy).
Compare the relative energy output expended by an organism in obtaining food to the energy gained from the food (e.g., hummingbird - energy expended hovering at a flower compared to the amount of energy gained from the nectar, coyote - chasing mice to the energy gained from catching one, energy expended in migration of birds to a location with seasonal abundance compared to energy gained by staying in a cold climate with limited food).
Research food production in various parts of the world (e.g., industrialized societies’ greater use of fossil fuel in food production, human health related to food product).
Explain relationships between matter cycles and organisms.
Use diagrams to trace the movement of matter through a cycle (i.e., carbon, oxygen, nitrogen, water) in a variety of biological communities and ecosystems.
Explain how water is a limiting factor in various ecosystems.
Distinguish between inference and evidence in a newspaper, magazine, journal, or Internet article that addresses an issue related to human impact on cycles of matter in an ecosystem and determine the bias in the article.
Evaluate the impact of personal choices in relation to the cycling of matter within an ecosystem (e.g., impact of automobiles on the carbon cycle, impact on landfills of processed and packaged foods).
Describe how interactions among organisms and their environment help shape ecosystems.
Categorize relationships among living things according to predator-prey, competition, and symbiosis.
Formulate and test a hypothesis specific to the effect of changing one variable upon another in a small ecosystem.
Use data to interpret interactions among biotic and abiotic factors (e.g., pH, temperature, precipitation, populations, diversity) within an ecosystem.
Investigate an ecosystem using methods of science to gather quantitative and qualitative data that describe the ecosystem in detail.
Research and evaluate local and global practices that affect ecosystems.
Cells are the basic unit of life. All living things are composed of one or more cells that come from preexisting cells. Cells perform a variety of functions necessary to maintain homeostasis and life. The structure and function of a cell determines the cell's role in an organism. Living cells are composed of chemical elements and molecules that form large, complex molecules. These molecules form the basis for the structure and function of cells.
Students will understand that all organisms are composed of one or more cells that are made of molecules, come from preexisting cells, and perform life functions.
Describe the fundamental chemistry of living cells.
List the major chemical elements in cells (i.e., carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorous, sulfur, trace elements).
Identify the function of the four major macromolecules (i.e., carbohydrates, proteins, lipids, nucleic acids).
Explain how the properties of water (e.g., cohesion, adhesion, heat capacity, solvent properties) contribute to maintenance of cells and living organisms.
Explain the role of enzymes in cell chemistry.
Describe the flow of energy and matter in cellular function.
Distinguish between autotrophic and heterotrophic cells.
Illustrate the cycling of matter and the flow of energy through photosynthesis (e.g., by using light energy to combine CO2 and H2O to produce oxygen and sugars) and respiration (e.g., by releasing energy from sugar and O2 to produce CO2 and H2O).
Measure the production of one or more of the products of either photosynthesis or respiration.
Investigate the structure and function of cells and cell parts.
Explain how cells divide from existing cells.
Describe cell theory and relate the nature of science to the development of cell theory (e.g., built upon previous knowledge, use of increasingly more sophisticated technology).
Describe how the transport of materials in and out of cells enables cells to maintain homeostasis (i.e., osmosis, diffusion, active transport).
Describe the relationship between the organelles in a cell and the functions of that cell.
Experiment with microorganisms and/or plants to investigate growth and reproduction.
Structure relates to function. Organs and organ systems function together to provide homeostasis in organisms. The functioning of organs depends upon multiple organ systems.
Students will understand the relationship between structure and function of organs and organ systems.
Describe the structure and function of organs.
Diagram and label the structure of the primary components of representative organs in plants and animals (e.g., heart - muscle tissue, valves and chambers; lung - trachea, bronchial, alveoli; leaf - veins, stomata; stem - xylem, phloem, cambium; root - tip, elongation, hairs; skin - layers, sweat glands, oil glands, hair follicles; ovaries - ova, follicles, corpus luteum).
Describe the function of various organs (e.g. heart, lungs, skin, leaf, stem, root, ovary).
Relate the structure of organs to the function of organs.
Compare the structure and function of organs in one organism to the structure and function of organs in another organism.
Research and report on technological developments related to organs.
Describe the relationship between structure and function of organ systems in plants and animals.
Relate the function of an organ to the function of an organ system.
Describe the structure and function of various organ systems (i.e., digestion, respiration, circulation, protection and support, nervous) and how these systems contribute to homeostasis of the organism.
Examine the relationships of organ systems within an organism (e.g., respiration to circulation, leaves to roots) and describe the relationship of structure to function in the relationship.
Relate the tissues that make up organs to the structure and function of the organ.
Compare the structure and function of organ systems in one organism to the structure and function in another organism (e.g., chicken to sheep digestive system; fern to peach reproductive system).
Information passed from parent to offspring is coded in DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) molecules. The fundamental DNA structure is the same for all living things; the sequence of DNA differs between each organism and each species. Changes in the DNA sequence may alter genetic expression. The genetic information in DNA provides the instructions for assembling protein molecules in cells. The code used is virtually the same for all organisms.
There are predictable patterns of inheritance. Sexual reproduction increases the genetic variation of a species. Asexual reproduction provides offspring that have the same genetic code as the parent.
Students will understand that genetic information coded in DNA is passed from parents to offspring by sexual and asexual reproduction. The basic structure of DNA is the same in all living things. Changes in DNA may alter genetic expression.
Compare sexual and asexual reproduction.
Explain the significance of meiosis and fertilization in genetic variation.
Compare the advantages/disadvantages of sexual and asexual reproduction to survival of species.
Formulate, defend, and support a perspective of a bioethical issue related to intentional or unintentional chromosomal mutations.
Predict and interpret patterns of inheritance in sexually reproducing organisms.
Explain Mendel’s laws of segregation and independent assortment and their role in genetic inheritance.
Demonstrate possible results of recombination in sexually reproducing organisms using one or two pairs of contrasting traits in the following crosses: dominance/recessive, incomplete dominance, codominance, and sex-linked traits.
Relate Mendelian principles to modern-day practice of plant and animal breeding.
Analyze bioethical issues and consider the role of science in determining public policy.
Explain how the structure and replication of DNA are essential to heredity and protein synthesis.
Use a model to describe the structure of DNA.
Explain the importance of DNA replication in cell reproduction.
Summarize how genetic information encoded in DNA provides instructions for assembling protein molecules.
Describe how mutations may affect genetic expression and cite examples of mutagens.
Relate the historical events that lead to our present understanding of DNA to the cumulative nature of science knowledge and technology.
Research, report, and debate genetic technologies that may improve the quality of life (e.g., genetic engineering, cloning, gene splicing).
Evolution is central to modern science’s understanding of the living world. The basic idea of biological evolution is that Earth’s present day species developed from earlier species. Evolutionary processes allow some species to survive with little or no change, some to die out altogether, and other species to change, giving rise to a greater diversity of species. Science distinguishes itself from other ways of knowing and from other bodies of knowledge through the use of empirical standards, logical arguments, and skepticism, as science strives for explanations of the world.
Students will understand that biological diversity is a result of evolutionary processes.
Relate principles of evolution to biological diversity.
Describe the effects of environmental factors on natural selection.
Relate genetic variability to a species’ potential for adaptation to a changing environment.
Relate reproductive isolation to speciation.
Compare selective breeding to natural selection and relate the differences to agricultural practices.
Cite evidence for changes in populations over time and use concepts of evolution to explain these changes.
Cite evidence that supports biological evolution over time (e.g., geologic and fossil records, chemical mechanisms, DNA structural similarities, homologous and vestigial structures).
Identify the role of mutation and recombination in evolution.
Relate the nature of science to the historical development of the theory of evolution.
Distinguish between observations and inferences in making interpretations related to evolution (e.g., observed similarities and differences in the beaks of Galapagos finches leads to the inference that they evolved from a common ancestor; observed similarities and differences in the structures of birds and reptiles leads to the inference that birds evolved from reptiles).
Review a scientific article and identify the research methods used to gather evidence that documents the evolution of a species.
Classify organisms into a hierarchy of groups based on similarities that reflect their evolutionary relationships.
Classify organisms using a classification tool such as a key or field guide.
Generalize criteria used for classification of organisms (e.g., dichotomy, structure, broad to specific).
Explain how evolutionary relationships are related to classification systems.
Justify the ongoing changes to classification schemes used in biology.
have been produced by and for the teachers of the State of Utah. Copies
of these materials may be freely reproduced for teacher and classroom use.
When distributing these materials, credit should be given to Utah State
Office of Education. These materials may not be published, in whole or part,
or in any other format, without the written permission of the Utah State
Office of Education, 250 East 500 South, PO Box 144200, Salt Lake City,
For more information about this core curriculum, contact the USOE Specialist,
or visit the
Science - Secondary Home Page.
For general questions about Utah's Core Curriculum, contact the USOE Curriculum Director,
Sydnee Dickson .
UEN Contact Info: 801-581-2999 | 800-866-5852 |