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A Framework for K-12 Science Education: Practices, Concepts and Core Ideas 

Science, engineering, and technology permeate nearly every facet of modern life and hold the key to meeting many of humanity's most pressing challenges, both present and future. To address the critical issues of U.S. competitiveness and to better prepare the workforce, Framework for K-12 Science Education proposes a new approach to K-12 science education that will capture students' interest and provide them with the necessary foundational knowledge in the field.

Framework for K-12 Science Education outlines a broad set of expectations for students in science and engineering in grades K-12. These expectations will inform the development of new standards for K-12 science education and, subsequently, revisions to curriculum, instruction, assessment, and professional development for educators. This book identifies three dimensions that convey the disciplinary core ideas and practices around which science and engineering education in these grades should be built. These three dimensions are: cross-cutting concepts that unify the study of science and engineering through their common application across these fields; scientific and engineering practices; and core ideas in four disciplinary areas: physical sciences, life sciences, earth and space sciences, and engineering, technology, and the applications of science. The overarching goal is for all high school graduates to have sufficient knowledge of science and engineering to engage in public discussions on science-related issues; be careful consumers of scientific and technological information; and have the skills to enter the careers of their choice.

Framework for K-12 Science Education is the first step in a process that will inform state-level decisions and provide a research-grounded basis for improving science teaching and learning across the country. The book will guide standards developers, curriculum designers, assessment developers, teacher educators, state and district science administrators, teachers, and educators who work in informal science environments.

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Adapting to the Impacts of Climate Change

Across the United States, impacts of climate change are already evident. Heat waves have become more frequent and intense, cold extremes have become less frequent, and patterns of rainfall are likely changing. The proportion of precipitation that falls as rain rather than snow has increased across the western United States and Arctic sea ice has been reduced significantly. Sea level has been rising faster than at any time in recent history, threatening the natural and built environments on the coasts. Even if emissions of greenhouse gases were substantially reduced now, climate change and its resulting impacts would continue for some time to come.

To date, decisions related to the management and protection of the nation's people, resources, and infrastructure have been based on records in the recent past, when climate was relatively stable. Adapting to the Impacts of Climate Change, part of the congressionally requested America's Climate Choices suite of studies, calls for a new paradigm-one that considers a range of possible future climate conditions and impacts that may be well outside the realm of past experience.

Adaptation requires actions from many decision makers in federal, state, tribal, and local governments; the private sector; non-governmental organizations; and community groups. However, current efforts are hampered by a lack of solid information about the benefits, costs, and effectiveness of various adaptation options; climate information on regional and local scales; and a lack of coordination. Adapting to the Impacts of Climate Change calls for a national adaptation strategy that provides needed technical and scientific resources, incentives to begin adaptation planning, guidance across jurisdictions, shared lessons learned, and support of scientific research to expand knowledge of impacts and adaptation.  

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Advancing the Science of Climate Change

Climate change is occurring, is caused largely by human activities, and poses significant risks for--and in many cases is already affecting--a broad range of human and natural systems. The compelling case for these conclusions is provided in Advancing the Science of Climate Change, part of a congressionally requested suite of studies known as America's Climate Choices. While noting that there is always more to learn and that the scientific process is never closed, the book shows that hypotheses about climate change are supported by multiple lines of evidence and have stood firm in the face of serious debate and careful evaluation of alternative explanations.

As decision makers respond to these risks, the nation's scientific enterprise can contribute through research that improves understanding of the causes and consequences of climate change and also is useful to decision makers at the local, regional, national, and international levels. The book identifies decisions being made in 12 sectors, ranging from agriculture to transportation, to identify decisions being made in response to climate change.

Advancing the Science of Climate Change calls for a single federal entity or program to coordinate a national, multidisciplinary research effort aimed at improving both understanding and responses to climate change. Seven cross-cutting research themes are identified to support this scientific enterprise. In addition, leaders of federal climate research should redouble efforts to deploy a comprehensive climate observing system, improve climate models and other analytical tools, invest in human capital, and improve linkages between research and decisions by forming partnerships with action-oriented programs. 

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America's Climate Choices

Climate change is occurring. It is very likely caused by the emission of greenhouse gases from human activities, and poses significant risks for a range of human and natural systems. And these emissions continue to increase, which will result in further change and greater risks.

America's Climate Choices makes the case that the environmental, economic, and humanitarian risks posed by climate change indicate a pressing need for substantial action now to limit the magnitude of climate change and to prepare for adapting to its impacts. Although there is some uncertainty about future risk, acting now will reduce the risks posed by climate change and the pressure to make larger, more rapid, and potentially more expensive reductions later. Most actions taken to reduce vulnerability to climate change impacts are common sense investments that will offer protection against natural climate variations and extreme events. In addition, crucial investment decisions made now about equipment and infrastructure can "lock in" commitments to greenhouse gas emissions for decades to come. Finally, while it may be possible to scale back or reverse many responses to climate change, it is difficult or impossible to "undo" climate change, once manifested.

Current efforts of local, state, and private-sector actors are important, but not likely to yield progress comparable to what could be achieved with the addition of strong federal policies that establish coherent national goals and incentives, and that promote strong U.S. engagement in international-level response efforts. The inherent complexities and uncertainties of climate change are best met by applying an iterative risk management framework and making efforts to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions; prepare for adapting to impacts; invest in scientific research, technology development, and information systems; and facilitate engagement between scientific and technical experts and the many types of stakeholders making America's climate choices.

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Assessing Requirements for Sustained Ocean Color Research and Operations

The ocean is a fundamental component of the earth's biosphere. It covers roughly 70 percent of Earth's surface and plays a pivotal role in the cycling of life's building blocks, such as nitrogen, carbon, oxygen, and sulfur. The ocean also contributes to regulating the climate system. Most of the primary producers in the ocean comprise of microscopic plants and some bacteria; and these photosynthetic organisms (phytoplankton) form the base of the ocean's food web. Monitoring the health of the ocean and its productivity is critical to understanding and managing the ocean's essential functions and living resources. Because the ocean is so vast and difficult for humans to explore, satellite remote sensing of ocean color is currently the only way to observe and monitor the biological state of the surface ocean globally on time scales of days to decades.

Ocean color measurements reveal a wealth of ecologically important characteristics including: chlorophyll concentration, the rate of phytoplankton photosynthesis, sediment transport, dispersion of pollutants, and responses of oceanic biota to long-term climate changes. Continuity of satellite ocean color data and associated climate research products are presently at significant risk for the U.S. ocean color community. Assessing Requirements for Sustained Ocean Color Research and Operations aims to identify the ocean color data needs for a broad range of end users, develop a consensus for the minimum requirements, and outline options to meet these needs on a sustained basis. The report assesses lessons learned in global ocean color remote sensing from the SeaWiFS/MODIS era to guide planning for acquisition of future global ocean color radiance data to support U.S. research and operational needs.

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Chemistry in Primetime and Online: Communicating Chemistry in Informal Environments

It is critical that we increase public knowledge and understanding of science and technology issues through formal and informal learning for the United States to maintain its competitive edge in today's global economy. Since most Americans learn about science outside of school, we must take advantage of opportunities to present chemistry content on television, the Internet, in museums, and in other informal educational settings.

In May 2010, the National Academies' Chemical Sciences Roundtable held a workshop to examine how the public obtains scientific information informally and to discuss methods that chemists can use to improve and expand efforts to reach a general, nontechnical audience. Workshop participants included chemical practitioners (e.g., graduate students, postdocs, professors, administrators); experts on informal learning; public and private funding organizations; science writers, bloggers, publishers, and university communications officers; and television and Internet content producers. Chemistry in Primetime and Online is a factual summary of what occurred in that workshop.

Chemistry in Primetime and Online examines science content, especially chemistry, in various informal educational settings. It explores means of measuring recognition and retention of the information presented in various media formats and settings. Although the report does not provide any conclusions or recommendations about needs and future directions, it does discuss the need for chemists to connect more with professional writers, artists, or videographers, who know how to communicate with and interest general audiences. It also emphasizes the importance of formal education in setting the stage for informal interactions with chemistry and chemists.

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Climate Change, the Indoor Enviroment, and Health

The indoor environment affects occupants' health and comfort. Poor environmental conditions and indoor contaminants are estimated to cost the U.S. economy tens of billions of dollars a year in exacerbation of illnesses like asthma, allergic symptoms, and subsequent lost productivity. Climate change has the potential to affect the indoor environment because conditions inside buildings are influenced by conditions outside them.

Climate Change, the Indoor Environment, and Health addresses the impacts that climate change may have on the indoor environment and the resulting health effects. It finds that steps taken to mitigate climate change may cause or exacerbate harmful indoor environmental conditions. The book discusses the role the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) should take in informing the public, health professionals, and those in the building industry about potential risks and what can be done to address them. The study also recommends that building codes account for climate change projections; that federal agencies join to develop or refine protocols and testing standards for evaluating emissions from materials, furnishings, and appliances used in buildings; and that building weatherization efforts include consideration of health effects.

Climate Change, the Indoor Environment, and Health is written primarily for the EPA and other federal agencies, organizations, and researchers with interests in public health; the environment; building design, construction, and operation; and climate issues.

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Expanding Underrepresented Minority Participation: America's Science and Technology Talent at the Crossroads

In order for the United States to maintain the global leadership and competitiveness in science and technology that are critical to achieving national goals, we must invest in research, encourage innovation, and grow a strong and talented science and technology workforce. Expanding Underrepresented Minority Participation explores the role of diversity in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) workforce and its value in keeping America innovative and competitive. According to the book, the U.S. labor market is projected to grow faster in science and engineering than in any other sector in the coming years, making minority participation in STEM education at all levels a national priority.

Expanding Underrepresented Minority Participation analyzes the rate of change and the challenges the nation currently faces in developing a strong and diverse workforce. Although minorities are the fastest growing segment of the population, they are underrepresented in the fields of science and engineering. Historically, there has been a strong connection between increasing educational attainment in the United States and the growth in and global leadership of the economy. Expanding Underrepresented Minority Participation suggests that the federal government, industry, and post-secondary institutions work collaboratively with K-12 schools and school systems to increase minority access to and demand for post-secondary STEM education and technical training.

The book also identifies best practices and offers a comprehensive road map for increasing involvement of underrepresented minorities and improving the quality of their education. It offers recommendations that focus on academic and social support, institutional roles, teacher preparation, affordability and program development.

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Informing an Effective Response to Climate Change

Global climate change is one of America's most significant long-term policy challenges. Human activity--especially the use of fossil fuels, industrial processes, livestock production, waste disposal, and land use change--is affecting global average temperatures, snow and ice cover, sea-level, ocean acidity, growing seasons and precipitation patterns, ecosystems, and human health. Climate-related decisions are being carried out by almost every agency of the federal government, as well as many state and local government leaders and agencies, businesses and individual citizens. Decision makers must contend with the availability and quality of information, the efficacy of proposed solutions, the unanticipated consequences resulting from decisions, the challenge of implementing chosen actions, and must consider how to sustain the action over time and respond to new information.

Informing an Effective Response to Climate Change, a volume in the America's Climate Choices series, describes and assesses different activities, products, strategies, and tools for informing decision makers about climate change and helping them plan and execute effective, integrated responses. It discusses who is making decisions (on the local, state, and national levels), who should be providing information to make decisions, and how that information should be provided. It covers all levels of decision making, including international, state, and individual decision making. While most existing research has focused on the physical aspect of climate change, Informing an Effective Response to Climate Change employs theory and case study to describe the efforts undertaken so far, and to guide the development of future decision-making resources.

Informing an Effective Response to Climate Change offers much-needed guidance to those creating public policy and assists in implementing that policy. The information presented in this book will be invaluable to the research community, especially social scientists studying climate change; practitioners of decision-making assistance, including advocacy organizations, non-profits, and government agencies; and college-level teachers and students. 

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Limiting the Magnitude of Future Climate Change

Climate change, driven by the increasing concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, poses serious, wide-ranging threats to human societies and natural ecosystems around the world. The largest overall source of greenhouse gas emissions is the burning of fossil fuels. The global atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide, the dominant greenhouse gas of concern, is increasing by roughly two parts per million per year, and the United States is currently the second-largest contributor to global emissions behind China.

Limiting the Magnitude of Future Climate Change, part of the congressionally requested America's Climate Choices suite of studies, focuses on the role of the United States in the global effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The book concludes that in order to ensure that all levels of government, the private sector, and millions of households and individuals are contributing to shared national goals, the United States should establish a "budget" that sets a limit on total domestic greenhouse emissions from 2010-2050. Meeting such a budget would require a major departure from business as usual in the way the nation produces and uses energy-and that the nation act now to aggressively deploy all available energy efficiencies and less carbon-intensive technologies and to develop new ones.

With no financial incentives or regulatory pressure, the nation will continue to rely upon and "lock in" carbon-intensive technologies and systems unless a carbon pricing system is established-either cap-and-trade, a system of taxing emissions, or a combination of the two. Complementary policies are also needed to accelerate progress in key areas: developing more efficient, less carbon-intense energy sources in electricity and transportation; advancing full-scale development of new-generation nuclear power, carbon capture, and storage systems; and amending emissions-intensive energy infrastructure. Research and development of new technologies that could help reduce emissions more cost effectively than current options is also strongly recommended. 

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Successful K-12 STEM Education: Identifying Effective Approaches in Science

Science, mathematics, engineering, and technology (STEM) are fundamental aspects of everyone's lives as citizens, consumers, parents, and workers. Providing all students with access to high-quality education in STEM is important to their futures and that of the U.S. What can schools do to meet this goal for their students?

Successful K-12 STEM Education tackles this question, focusing on the science and mathematics parts of STEM and on criteria for identifying effective STEM schools and practices. Successful K-12 STEM Education gives an overview of the landscape of K-12 STEM education by considering different school models, highlighting research on effective STEM education practices, and identifying some conditions that promote and limit school- and student-level success in STEM. It can serve as a guide for those involved in K-12 education at all levels: policy makers; decision makers at the school and district levels; local, state, and federal government agencies; curriculum developers; educators; and parent and education advocacy groups.

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Understanding Earth's Deep Past: Lessons for Our Climate Future

There is little dispute within the scientific community that humans are changing Earth's climate on a decadal to century time-scale. By the end of this century, without a reduction in emissions, atmospheric CO2 is projected to increase to levels that Earth has not experienced for more than 30 million years. As greenhouse gas emissions propel Earth toward a warmer climate state, an improved understanding of climate dynamics in warm environments is needed to inform public policy decisions. In Understanding Earth's Deep Past, the National Research Council reports that rocks and sediments that are millions of years old hold clues to how the Earth's future climate would respond in an environment with high levels of atmospheric greenhouse gases.

Understanding Earth's Deep Past provides an assessment of both the demonstrated and underdeveloped potential of the deep-time geologic record to inform us about the dynamics of the global climate system. The report describes past climate changes, and discusses potential impacts of high levels of atmospheric greenhouse gases on regional climates, water resources, marine and terrestrial ecosystems, and the cycling of life-sustaining elements. While revealing gaps in scientific knowledge of past climate states, the report highlights a range of high priority research issues with potential for major advances in the scientific understanding of climate processes. This proposed integrated, deep-time climate research program would study how climate responded over Earth's different climate states, examine how climate responds to increased atmospheric carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, and clarify the processes that lead to anomalously warm polar and tropical regions and the impact on marine and terrestrial life.

In addition to outlining a research agenda, Understanding Earth's Deep Past proposes an implementation strategy that will be an invaluable resource to decision-makers in the field, as well as the research community, advocacy organizations, government agencies, and college professors and students. 

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