All DCPS students study the earth, life, and physical sciences, as well as engineering and technology throughout their school experience.  At the beginning of school year 2014-2015, DCPS began implementation of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) which is a set of science standards based upon the National Research Council’s 2011 Framework for K-12 Science Education. The NGSS standards focus on science and engineering practices, emphasize critical thinking, designing solutions to real-world problems, and are conducive to project-based learning. Through Science Cornerstones, DCPS students tackle real-world issues in a hands-on setting. 


Search for materials by standard, grade level, or instructional model, or browse the full collection below.

Grade 8 Science - Roller Coaster Adventure

Inquiry / 5E

In this Cornerstone, students will be introduced to the idea of energy and motion through engineering and design. Students will play the role of engineers to design and build roller coasters for a theme park. Students will explore how objects move by manipulating different variables including types of materials, size of the object, height and shapes of the materials. Using technology and online simulations, students will learn the physics of roller coasters by exploring the relationships between potential energy, kinetic energy, mass, and speed. Using all of their observations and findings, students will collaborate in teams to plan, budget, design, explain, construct and analyze their own roller coaster using the appropriate vocabulary. Once the designs have been tested, students will analyze and critique other teams’ roller coasters and suggest ideas for further research and redesign. Click here to access the full Cornerstone on Canvas.


MS-PS3-1. Construct and interpret graphical displays of data to describe the relationships of kinetic energy to the mass of an object and to the speed of an object

MS-PS3-2. Develop a model to describe that when the arrangement of objects interacting at a distance changes, different amounts of potential energy are stored in the system

MS-PS3-5. Construct, use and present arguments to support the claim that when the motion energy of an object changes, energy is transferred to or from the object.

MS-ETS1-4. Develop a model to generate data for iterative testing and modification of a proposed object, tool, or process such that an optimal design can be achieved.

Grade 8 Science - Sound Waves

Inquiry / 5E

In this Cornerstone, students will design and build a soundproof box that can dampen the sound generated outside the box as much as possible. Students will learn to think like engineers as they design a model sound box to explore the sound-dampening ability of numerous materials to mimic the properties of a real sound booth. They learn how sound is reflected and absorbed, and how it travels through various materials, providing an overview of sound dampening, energy absorption, and sound propagation in the context of engineering. Click here to access the full Cornerstone on Canvas.


MS-PS4-1. Use mathematical representations to describe a simple model for waves that includes how the amplitude of a wave is related to the energy in a wave.

MS-PS4-2. Develop and use a model to describe that waves are reflected, absorbed, or transmitted through various materials.

ETS1.A: Defining and Delimiting Engineering Problems The more precisely a design task’s criteria and constraints can be defined, the more likely it is that the designed solution will be successful. Specification of constraints includes consideration of scientific principles and other relevant knowledge that are likely to limit possible solutions. (MS-ETS1-1)

ETS1.B: Developing Possible Solutions A solution needs to be tested, and then modified on the basis of the test results, in order to improve it. (MS-ETS1-4) There are systematic processes for evaluating solutions with respect to how well they meet the criteria and constraints of a problem. (MS-ETS1-2), (MS-ETS1-3)

Biology - Natural Selection

Inquiry / 5E

In this task, students will test the reliability of a model for the process of natural selection, using different colored paper chips to represent prey and a piece of fabric as a background to represent the environment. Students will hunt to see what colors are best adapted to the environment and able to pass their traits on to subsequent generations. Students will analyze and share their data from the lab using Microsoft Excel. Click here to access the full Cornerstone on Canvas.


LS4.B: Natural Selection:

Natural selection occurs only if there is both (1) variation in the genetic information between organisms in a population and (2) variation in the expression of that genetic information – that is, trait variation – that leads to differences in performance among individuals.

The traits that positively affect survival are more likely to be reproduced, and thus more common in the population.

LS4.C: Adaptation:

Evolution is a consequence of the interactions of four factors: (1) the potential for a species to increase in number, (2) the genetic variation of individuals in a species due to mutation and sexual reproduction, (3) competition for an environment’s limited supply of the resources that individuals need in order to survive and reproduce, and (4) the ensuing proliferation of those organisms that are better able to survive and reproduce in that environment.

Natural selection leads to adaptation, that is, to a population dominated by organisms that are anatomically, behaviorally, and physiologically well suited to survive and reproduce in a specific environment.

Species become extinct because they can no longer survive and reproduce in their altered environment. If members cannot adjust to change that is too fast or drastic, the opportunity for the species’ evolution is lost.

Biology - Carbon Footprint

Project-Based Learning

Students will use the United States Environmental Protection Agency Carbon Footprint website to calculate their carbon footprints and discover what they can do to reduce their carbon emissions. Students will be asked to write a policy that can be applied to their community or school to lower carbon emissions. Click here to access the full Cornerstone on Canvas.


LS2.C: Ecosystem Dynamics, Functioning, and Resilience: Anthropogenic changes (induced by human activity) in the environment – including habitat destruction, pollution, introduction of invasive species, overexploitation, and climate change – can disrupt an ecosystem and threaten the survival of some species.

LS4.D: Biodiversity and Humans: Humans depend on the living world for the resources and other benefits provided by biodiversity. But human activity is also having adverse effects on biodiversity through overpopulation, overexploitation, habitat destruction, pollution, introduction of invasive species, and climate change. Thus sustaining biodiversity so that ecosystem functioning and productivity are maintained is essential to supporting and enhancing life on Earth. Sustain biodiversity also aids humanity by preserving landscapes of recreational or inspirational value.

ETS1.B: Developing Possible Solutions: When evaluating solutions it is important to take into account a range of constraints including cost, safety, reliability and aesthetics and to consider social, cultural, and environmental impacts.

Biology - Meiosis

Inquiry / 5E

In this Cornerstone, students will mimic the processes of meiosis and fertilization to investigate the inheritance of multiple genes and then use their understanding of concepts such as dominant/recessive alleles, incomplete dominance, sex-linked inheritance, and epistasis to interpret the results of the simulation. Students will evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of this simulation as a model for understanding inheritance. Click here to access the full Cornerstone on Canvas.


LS3.A. Inheritance of Traits

Each chromosome consists of a single very long DNA molecule, and each gene on the chromosome is a particular segment of that DNA. The instructions for forming species’ characteristics are carried in DNA. All cells in an organism have the same genetic content, but the genes used (expressed) by the cell may be regulated in different ways. Not all DNA codes for a protein; some segments of DNA are involved in regulatory or structural functions, and some have no as-yet known function.

LS3.B. Variation of Traits

In sexual reproduction, chromosomes can sometimes swap sections during the process of meiosis (cell division), thereby creating new genetic combinations and thus more genetic variation. Although DNA replication is tightly regulated and remarkably accurate, errors do occur and result in mutations, which are also a source of genetic variation. Environmental factors can also cause mutations in genes, and viable mutations are inherited.

Chemistry - Nuclear Site Inspector

Inquiry / 5E

Students will take on the role of an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspector that is tasked with determining whether Iran is in violation of the newly signed Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, more commonly known as the Iran Nuclear Deal or Agreement. They will do this by investigating a specific Iranian site for evidence of prohibited radioisotopes using their knowledge of nuclear decay processes and half-lives. They will then use what they learned to write an informative report that concludes whether or not Iran is in violation of the agreement. They will also create and use poster-sized models of the relevant nuclear processes to support the explanations in their reports and will present their findings to the United Nations (classmates). Click here to access the full Cornerstone on Canvas.



Develop models to illustrate the changes in the composition of the nucleus of the atom and the energy released during the processes of fission, fusion, and radioactive decay. Clarification Statement: Emphasis is on simple qualitative models, such as pictures or diagrams, and on the scale of energy released in nuclear processes relative to other kinds of transformations. [Assessment Boundary: Assessment does not include quantitative calculation of energy released and is limited to alpha, beta, and gamma radioactive decays.]

Chemistry - Ocean Acidification

Project-Based Learning

Students will explore the effect of varying pH on shelled marine organisms. The students will have a better understanding of human impact that have caused pH changes in the ocean. Following a 5E instructional model, students will take on the role of DC Chemists and design an investigation that will allow them to further simulate what will happen to shelled marine organisms when oceanic conditions are manipulated. The students will use their data to create a report for the fictitious Chesapeake Bay Oyster Farmers Association (CBOFA) detailing their findings and possible solutions to curb/remedy this problem. Click here to access the full Cornerstone on Canvas.



Design a solution to a complex real-world problem by breaking it down into smaller, more manageable problems that can be solved through engineering.

Chemistry - Sub-Zero

Project-Based Learning

The Alaskan Bering Sea is known for producing one of the world’s most prized types of seafood, the Alaskan king crab. Fishermen often endure harsh seas and bone-chilling sub-zero conditions while fishing for these creatures. Staying warm in these difficult conditions is crucial, both for them to survive and to maintain their livelihood. External warming devices, such as hand-warmers, can be very helpful to fishermen and others who face extreme cold temperatures on a regular basis. In this Cornerstone students will use their understanding of exothermic and endothermic reactions and processes, and bond energy to plan a device that uses a chemical reaction to help keep a fisherman’s hands warm. Students will work collaboratively to derive questions, design and carry out investigations, and communicate results of the most efficient solution to the problem.
Click here to access the full Cornerstone on Canvas.


PS1.B Chemical Reactions

Chemical processes, their rates, and whether or not energy is stored or released can be understood in terms of the collisions of molecules and the rearrangements of atoms into new molecules, with consequent changes in the sum of all bond energies in the set of molecules that are matched by changes in kinetic energy. (HS-PS1-4)

PS3.B: Conservation of Energy and Energy Transfer

Energy cannot be created or destroyed, but it can be transported from one place to another and transferred between systems. (HS-PS3-4)

PS3.D: Energy in Chemical Processes

Although energy cannot be destroyed, it can be converted to less useful forms—for example, to thermal energy in the surrounding environment. (HS-PS3-4)

Physics - Driving the Roads

Inquiry / 5E

Students will apply kinematics to understand the factors that affect a car’s stopping distance. They will analyze stopping scenarios and make recommendations to the DC Department of Transportation regarding yellow light timing. Using a 5E instructional model and mathematical modeling, students time lights at actual intersections, take measurements using Google Maps, and create a presentation with their recommendations. Resources include a variety of articles and videos to support instruction with a wide variety of students. Click here to access the full Cornerstone on Canvas.



Use mathematical representations to support the claim that the total momentum of a system of objects is conserved when there is no net force on the system.

Physics - Make a Solar Cooker

Inquiry / 5E

In this task, students will use a simplified equation to create a computational model (in this case, a spreadsheet) to test the effects of changes in various elements on the temperature of the solar oven by keeping all variables constant in each simulation and changing only the variable being tested; the students plot and compare the data for each simulation. Using their designs, equations, and simulations, students also engage in the design and engineering process as they build and revise their own solar ovens using principles of energy transformation and transfer within the solar box system and the results of their simulations. Click here to access the full Cornerstone on Canvas.



Create a computational model to calculate the change in the energy of one component in a system when the change in energy of the other component(s) and energy flows in and out of the system are known.


Develop and use models to illustrate that energy at the macroscopic scale can be accounted for as either motions of particles or energy stored in fields.


Design, build, and refine a device that works within given constraints to convert one form of energy into another form of energy.


Evaluate a solution to a complex real-world problem based on prioritized criteria and trade-offs that account for a range of constraints, including cost, safety, reliability, and aesthetics, as well as possible social, cultural, and environmental impacts.

Physics - Electrostatic Forces

Project-Based Learning

Using transparent cellophane tape, students investigate the static electricity of charged objects. Inductive electric forces are explored and students ‘discover’ and use the mathematical representation of Coulomb’s Law to understand electrostatic forces. Click here to access the full Cornerstone on Canvas.



Use mathematical representations of Coulomb’s Law to describe and predict the electrostatic forces between objects.