Smithsonian and Carolina Biological Announce New Version of Elementary Science Curriculum to Raise Bar in 3D Learning

BURLINGTON, NC — Carolina Biological, the leading school science supplier and the Smithsonian Science Education Center announced Smithsonian Science for the Classroom™, Phenomenon and Problem-Driven Edition, for grades K to 5. The print, digital and hands-on program raises the bar in student-driven 3D learning and 3D assessment. All modules in the updated core science curriculum are rolling out for the 2024-25 school year. The program still takes students on a journeyof hands-on experiences, observation, and collaboration, but added many more new opportunities for students to drive their own learning and: build reading, writing, and speaking skills; make sense of phenomena and real-world problems; drive learning with their own ideas and experiences. The new program features a robust and integrated assessment system, including a new assessment map. Accessibility for students is emphasized. Students cultivate scientific skills and knowledge through student-centric investigations as they figure out compelling phenomena and solve real-world problems. Teacher support is included. The new 2nd Edition was extensively field tested by educators and will be available for purchase through Carolina for the 2024-25 school year. Teachers can contact Carolina now to implement in classrooms next fall.

Smithsonian Science for the Classroom, 2nd Edition, is a high-quality comprehensive science program with life science, earth and space science, physical science and engineering modules developed to meet the *Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). This elementary curriculum engages, inspires, and connects students firsthand to the world around them through a total of 24 student-driven modules. It helps teachers keep classes fresh and interesting to young students and integrate science, technology, math and engineering throughengaging and hands-on lessons. Smithsonian Science for the Classroom includes print and digital components, as well as hands-on materials.

Student Agency

A strong theme in the new Edition is the power of student agency, a personalized learning concept that gives students a choice and voice in learning. When each new phenomenon or problem is introduced, students have the opportunity to access their prior knowledge, share initial ideas, and ask questions based on gaps in their understanding. These ideas and questions drive the next steps. They offer more opportunities for students to ask questions and rely upon their prior knowledge to drive their understanding and learning. Students work as scientists, doing hands-on investigations, collaborating with peers, testing models, and developing explanations as they explain a phenomenon or solve a problem. A family letter is included for every module that creates opportunities for teachers to gain knowledge about students’ prior experiences and for parents and caregivers to know what to ask students about in-class experiences.

“Students come to the classroom with an understanding of the world based on their previous experiences,” said Dr. Carol O’Donnell, Senior Executive and Director of the Smithsonian Science Education Center. “When students have an opportunity to access their prior knowledge, use it to make initial explanations of a phenomenon, and integrate that prior knowledge with classroom investigations, they will gain a deeper understanding of how the natural world works. The new Edition gives students more opportunities to explain phenomena and solve problems by integrating their knowledge from past experiences with carefully chosen investigations, digital interactives, and informational text.”

During field testing of the version, many educators provided feedback and enjoyed the student-driven emphasis of the investigations. Here is one of the helpful comments from 2nd Edition beta testers about the grade 4 engineering unit: “I have never had the students come up with goals for a successful solution,” said Michele Hayes, 4th grade teacher at St. John’s School in Houston, TX. “This was difficult for them, but they came up with great ideas. I will definitely use this when doing future STEM projects.”

Every lesson provides opportunities for students to practice and reinforce foundational reading and math skills. Explaining phenomena and solving problems provides motivation for students to read, write, and discuss for purpose. Students read for purpose to find evidence that explains what is confusing or surprising to them. Notebooking in science gives students opportunities to engage with the writing process, write for a purpose and a place to record and organize their design and testing plans, collected data, ideas and explanations of phenomena, and claims based on evidence.

Students talk to each other to design a solution together, brainstorm how to test it, and plan how to make it better. Students speak to each other and to the class as they ask and answer their own questions and communicate the results of their investigations through presentations.

Developers at theSmithsonian Science Education Center leveraged their incredible curiosity about the amazing things the researchers and curators are investigating at the Smithsonian and wove that into a student-driven grades K to 5 curriculum. So the students who use Smithsonian Science for the Classroom and its accompanying literacy series, Smithsonian Science Stories, aren’t just getting a cohesive, engaging, NGSS-aligned curriculum, they are getting a chance to “visit” the Smithsonian and peer into the art, culture and history through the readings. The curriculum was voted the most culturally relevant science program by the National Science Teaching Association in BEST of STEM 2023 awards.

3D Assessment

The modules integrate science and engineering seamlessly, as intended by NGSS. Guidance is provided through call-out boxes on where, when and how students are applying the three dimensions of NGSS (e.g., disciplinary core ideas, science and engineering practices, and cross-cutting concepts). This is especially useful for teachers who are relatively new to NGSS and also ensures that students are engaged in 3D learning. A new comprehensive Assessment Map in the Teacher’s Guide for each module illustrates how students progress in building skills and knowledge throughout the module. Formative and checkpoint assessments build to the module summative performance assessment, which is a science or engineering design challenge. The assessment table format makes it fast and easy for teachers to use “in the moment” assessment guidance.3D assessment assists teachers in gauging how well students are progressing in all three dimensions through a variety of assessed performance tasks and written assessments. Three-dimensional assessments required by the latest standards are performance based. Students apply their content knowledge to complete a task and answer open-ended questions about phenomena. Understanding is demonstrated in a variety of ways where students apply their knowledge and skills to a scenario. Teachers need to provide evidence that students can apply their knowledge appropriately and are building on their existing knowledge and skills in ways that lead to deeper understanding of the scientific and engineering practices, crosscutting concepts, and disciplinary core ideas.

“The new edition of Smithsonian Science for the Classroom drives the powerful, three-dimensional learning and assessment intended by NGSS,” said Jim Parrish, President and CEO at Carolina Biological Supply Company. “It builds upon the original research foundation to 1) develop scientific literacy while reinforcing foundational skills in reading and math, 2) emphasize experiential learning; and 3) provide access to culturally relevant content only available through the Smithsonian Institution. The 2nd Edition provides more opportunities for all students’ ideas to drive investigation of phenomena and problems and to make sense of their natural world.”


All modules from Smithsonian Science for the Classroom, 2nd Edition, will be available for schools to purchase in the 2024-2025 school year through Carolina. It includes print and digital components, as well as hands-on materials. The program includes 24 modules for grades K to 5. Each module includes a print-format Teacher Guide, a set of 16 Smithsonian Science Stories readers, a set of 10 Student Activity Guides (grades 3-5), a class kit of hands-on materials to supply 32 students, and digital access to the Teacher Guide and student literacy materials. Prices start at $650 for one grade-level module through Carolina. Refurbishment sets are also available starting at $200 to refill the hands-on consumables for subsequent use of the module. An upgrade kit for current users will be available for purchase. Below-grade and Spanish versions of the readers are also available for purchase. For information, visit Carolina’s website, call (800) 334-5551, or e-mail

Smithsonian Science Education Center

The mission of the  Smithsonian Science Education Center is to transform and improve the teaching and learning of science for PreK-12 students in the United States and throughout the world. Established in 1985 as the National Science Resources Center (NSRC) under the sponsorship of two prestigious institutions – the Smithsonian Institution and the National Academy of Sciences – the Center is dedicated to the establishment of effective science programs for all students. The Smithsonian Science Education Center works to build awareness for PreK-12 science education reform among global, state, and district leaders; conducts programs that support the professional growth of PreK-12 teachers and school leaders; and engages in research and curriculum development in partnership with it is publisher, Carolina Biological Supply Company, the sole source provider of STC™, STCMS™, and Smithsonian Science for the Classroom™.

Carolina Biological Supply Company

From its beginnings in 1927, Carolina ( has grown to become the leading supplier of biological and other science teaching materials in the world. Headquartered in Burlington, NC, Carolina serves customers worldwide, including teachers, students, and professionals in science and health-related fields. The company is still privately owned by descendants of the founder, geology and biology professor Dr. Thomas E. Powell Jr.                                                                                                

* NGSS is a registered trademark of WestEd. Neither WestEd nor the lead states and partners that developed the Next Generation Science Standards were involved in the production of this product, and do not endorse it.

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