Applying Physical Science to the Real World

Apply physical science concepts to solve problems in mini-projects with a group, and then design your own real-world project to pursue with a community partner.


  • Essential Question:  How can I use physical science concepts to solve a problem or answer a question? As the semester progresses, students develop their own essential questions based on their individual projects.
  • Area of study: physical science
  • Type and amount of credit earned:  Honors designation for Physical Science on transcript
  • Community partners:
    • An engineering group from a local manufacturing company visits the students at school to discuss their individual projects in small groups.
    • Some students may connect with an adult they know through their own or their community connections.
    • If appropriate, students meet with school personnel such as chemistry, physics, and computer programming teachers.


This ELO enables students to demonstrate the ability to carry out all eight Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) Scientific and Engineering Practices:

  • Asking questions (for science) and defining problems (for engineering)
  • Developing and using models
  • Planning and carrying out investigations
  • Analyzing and interpreting data
  • Using mathematics and computational thinking
  • Constructing explanations (for science) and designing solutions (for engineering)
  • Engaging in argument from evidence
  • Obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information

See the detailed ELO description for the full text of these competencies.

Student Activities

Phase one: Skill development.

  • Complete 3-4 STEM mini-projects involving research, application, and reflection. Each activity is scaffolded, with detailed research sources, guidance, and structured questions provided for the first. Supports are gradually removed as the semester progresses. The actual STEM projects can vary (see sidebar links to samples).
  • Whole group meetings are held biweekly for ten weeks to allow for group discussion and collaboration.

Phase two: Individual project

  • Visit CTE class (engineering, computer science, automotive, or building trades) to gain ideas for individual project.
  • Draft ELO individual project proposal and review with teacher. Students continue to consult with teacher as needed during steps 4-9.
  • Begin background research.
  • Consult with community partner.
  • Carry out experiments for laboratory investigation or build model of engineering solution.
  • Collect and analyze data.
  • Draw conclusions and reflect on final outcome.
  • Create and present final display.


  • Successful completion of preliminary STEM assignments.
  • Accomplished or exemplary ratings on the school-wide self-management rubric.
  • Accomplished or exemplary ratings on the school-wide problem-solving rubric.
  • Presentation of final project on a three-sided display board with model/lab apparatus at open house for parents, faculty, community partners, and other invited guests

More information

Scaffolding projects, frequent monitoring of student progress, and individual choice are the key elements to success.  See the detailed description for sample STEM mini-projects, supporting materials, and discussion of modifications for students with IEPs.

This ELO was submitted by Carol Young, Science Department Leader at ConVal Regional High School. Email teacher for more information