In the NGSS, models serve a purpose. Below are some of the key things that models should be doing in some of the grade bands.
- represent the amounts, relationships, scales, and/or patterns in the natural and designed world.
- describe or support explanations for phenomena
- describe a scientific principle
- explain frequent and regular events
- predict, descirbe, support explanations about phenomena
- describe unobservable mechanisms
- modify models based on new information
- predict and support explanations of relationships between systems or components of a system
- use models to generate data to make predictions, analyze systems, or solve problems
In all cases, the students actually has to do mental work around the model. If students copy a teacher's model of a water molecule, they have done no work (therefore, it's not a NGSS model). However, if they use that model to explain the surface tension of water, then they have done the thinking work, and we can consider it a NGSS model.
As you look at modeling in your classroom, ask yourself these questions:
1. Do all of the student models look alike? (If so, then it's probably not a true model.)
2. Are the students using the model for something beyond just creating it? (If not, you're probably just doing a craft activity.)
3. Are the students revising their models based on new information? (this comes in at the 6-8 grade band, but it is an excellent way to formatively assess students' knowledge of a concept or phenomenon.)