One of the three core dimensions of the NGSS, the SEPs support student- and inquiry-driven learning.

While the Science and Engineering Practices (SEPs) are just one of the three interwoven core “dimensions” that make up the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), the SEPs are the secret sauce. That’s because unlike the other two dimensions -- Disciplinary Core Ideas and Cross Cutting Concepts -- SEPs explicitly focus on the "how" rather than the "what," the doing rather than knowing. It's because of this that I think the SEPs are positioned to take science learning in bold new directions. 

SEPs are in line with the larger trend in education toward student- and inquiry-driven classroom activities that build skills and ways of thinking. These trends are baked into the burgeoning maker and coding movements as well as more established STEM/STEAM initiatives. Personally, though, I think there’s no better crossover than with game-based learning (GBL). I’ve said before that games are perfectly suited to NGSS, and I’m more confident than ever about this now that we’ve started tagging edtech tools for NGSS. Here’s the thing, though: While games can be great for all three NGSS dimensions, they’re at their best when used as platforms for science and engineering practice. 

Games ... are at their best when used as platforms for science and engineering practice.

To get you started weaving together SEPs and games, I’ve put together my own version of a food and wine pairing -- a great game matched with each of the eight SEPs. Of course, these are just a few recommendations, and each game could be used to meet many of the SEPs. That's why I’d love to hear about your own pairings. Let me know in the comments.

Developing and Using Models
Game: Universe Sandbox
Grades: 6-12  Platforms: PC  Price: $9.99


Planning and Carrying Out Investigations
Game: Extrasolar
Grades: 7-12  Platforms: Web  Price: Free, Optional Paid Upgrades


Analyzing and Interpreting Data
Game: Kerbal Space Program
Grades: 7-12  Platforms: PC, Mac  Price: $40.00


Using Mathematics and Computational Thinking
Game: Hopscotch: School Edition
Grades: 4-9  Platforms: iPad  Price: $9.99


Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions
Game: SimCityEDU
Grades: 5-8  Platforms: PC, Mac  Price: $35 per year and up


Engaging in Argument from Evidence
Game: Mars Gen One: Argubot Academy
Grades: 6-8  Platforms: iPad  Price: Free


Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating Information
Game: Twine
Grades: 6-12  Platforms: PC, Mac  Price: Free


Asking Questions and Defining Problems
Game: Contraption Maker
Grades: 3-8 Platforms: PC, Mac Price: 6.99

Tanner Higgin

Tanner is Editorial Director, Learning Content at Common Sense Education where he leads the editorial team responsible for edtech reviews and resources. Previously, he taught writing and media literacy for six years, and has a PhD from the University of California, Riverside. His research on video games and culture has been published in journals, books, and online, presented at conferences nationwide, and continues to be cited and taught in classes around the world. Prior to joining Common Sense Education, Tanner worked as a curriculum developer and researcher at GameDesk, helping to design and launch and the PlayMaker School. While at GameDesk, he co-designed the United Colonies alternate reality game (ARG) with Mike Minadeo. This ARG is to date one of the most sophisticated to be implemented in a K-12 environment. Outside of education, Tanner has been a Technical Writer-Editor for the Department of Defense, a web designer, and co-editor and co-creator of a print literary journal.