NGSS Storyline

Next Generation Science Standards Phenomenon Question Practices (NGSS PQP): Storyline to analyze the relationships between climate change, agricultural practices, nutrient loads, and hypoxia

The following storyline provides context and rationale for the performance expectations listed below. The performance expectations, storyline, and 5-E lesson plan are designed to meet Next Generation Science Standards

Performance Expectations

HS-LS2-6.  Evaluate the claims, evidence, and reasoning that the complex interactions in ecosystems maintain relatively consistent numbers and types of organisms in stable conditions, but changing conditions may result in a new ecosystem.

HS-LS2-7. Design, evaluate, and refine a solution for reducing the impacts of human activities on the environment and biodiversity.

HS-ESS3-5. Analyze geoscience data and the results from global climate models to make an evidence-based forecast of the current rate of global or regional climate change and associated future impacts to Earth systems.

Main Phenomenon

  • Climate change is affecting nutrient and oxygen concentrations in the Chesapeake Bay.

Driving Questions

  • Why are nutrients and dissolved oxygen important for the Bay?
  • What are some factors that affect nutrient and dissolved oxygen levels?
  • Can we use models to predict how climate change can affect nutrient levels and oxygen levels in the Bay?
  • How can we reduce the impacts of climate change on nutrient loads and dissolved oxygen?

Disciplinary Core Ideas (DCIs)

ESS3.D: Global Climate Change: Though the magnitudes of human impacts are greater than they have ever been, so too are human abilities to model, predict, and manage current and future impacts.

LS2.C: Ecosystem Dynamics, Functioning, and Resilience: A complex set of interactions within an ecosystem can keep its numbers and types of organisms relatively constant over long periods of time under stable conditions. If a modest biological or physical disturbance to an ecosystem occurs, it may return to its more or less original status (i.e., the ecosystem is resilient), as opposed to becoming a very different ecosystem. Extreme fluctuations in conditions or the size of any population, however, can challenge the functioning of ecosystems in terms of resources and habitat availability.

Moreover, 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.

Science and Engineering Practices (SEPs)

  • Analyze data using computational models in order to make valid and reliable scientific claims.
  • Construct and revise an explanation based on valid and reliable evidence obtained from a variety of sources (including students’ own investigations, models, theories, simulations, peer review)
  • Design, evaluate, and refine a solution to a complex real-world problem, based on scientific knowledge, student-generated sources of evidence, prioritized criteria, and tradeoff considerations.
  • Engaging in argument from evidence.  Arguments may also come from current scientific or historical episodes in science.
  • Evaluate the claims, evidence, and reasoning behind currently accepted explanations or solutions to determine the merits of arguments.

Cross Cutting Concepts (CCCs)

  • Stability and Change: Change and rates of change can be quantified and modeled over very short or very long periods of time. Some system changes are irreversible.

5-E Lesson Plan

Next Generation Science Standards 5-E Lesson Plan: Analyzing the relationships between climate change, agricultural practices, nutrient loads, and hypoxia



  • To pique student interest, provide background and assess student prior knowledge

Activity (student guide available in word document):

  • Browse the Climate Change and Estuaries Module and identify the main idea and details

Activity worksheet



  • To provide students with relevant vocabulary, formal definitions and explanations of concepts

Driving Questions:

  • Why are nutrients and dissolved oxygen important for the Bay?
  • What are some factors that affect nutrient and hypoxia?

Activity (details in word document):

  • Hypoxia in Chesapeake Bay: Cause and effect (involves reading, data analysis, formative assessment, synthesis)

word_iconActivity worksheet



  • To test ideas and develop knowledge using explorations, investigations, experiments
  • To modify and record ideas as they change due to activities
  • To develop new questions and testable hypotheses

Driving Question:

  • Can we use models to predict how climate change can affect nutrient levels and hypoxia in the Bay?

Activity (details in word document):

  • Model the relationship between climate change, nutrients and hypoxia (involves modeling, interpreting data, arguing from evidence, and explanations)

Activity worksheet



  • To extend students' conceptual understanding through application or practice in new settings

Driving Question:

  • How can we reduce the impacts of climate change nutrients on the Chesapeake Bay?

Activity (details in word documents):

  • Research solutions to reduce the impacts of climate change and nutrients on the Chesapeake Bay
  • Argue the need to change policies to manage the need to impacts of climate change
word_iconActivity Worksheet - Basic skill level

word_iconActivity worksheet - Advanced skill level



  • To assess students’ understanding and application of concepts


  • Formative and summative assessment in which students must provide explanations and arguments, conduct research, and form and apply a conceptual model. Assessment could take many forms. We provide an example essay assignment below.

Example assignment: Argumentative essay

Write an essay defending your position on the following question: Do you support EPA’s decision to include climate change as part of the nationwide TMDL plan? Use the outline below to write your essay.

1. Intro Paragraph (include your thesis/stance here)

2. Two Supporting Paragraphs: The purpose of these paragraphs is to prove your argument. Each should include:

  • Topic sentence
  • Introduction to evidence: Introduce your evidence either in a few words (e.g., as Dr. Brown states ―…) or in a single sentence.
  • Evidence: What supporting evidence (reasons, examples, facts, statistics, and/or quotations) can you include to prove/support/explain your topic sentence?
  • Explanation of evidence: How should we read or interpret the evidence you are providing us? How does this evidence prove the point you are trying to make in this paragraph?
  • Concluding Sentence: How does this paragraph help to prove your essay’s overall claim?
  • Include one direct quote from research.

3. Counterargument paragraph (or 2): The purpose is to anticipate your reader’s objections.  This will make you sound more objective and reasonable. This paragraph should include:

  • What possible argument might your reader pose against your argument and/or some aspect of your reasoning? Insert one or more of those arguments here and refute them.
  • Make sure to end with a concluding sentence that again reassures your paper’s claim/stance.

4. Conclusion Paragraph