Grades 9-12

In their high school years, students in Biology courses expand their understanding of organisms and populations through the study of natural selection and mechanisms leading to adaptation. They explore biodiversity and how disturbance, including anthropogenic change, can alter ecosystems and their function. In Earth Science courses students examine the impacts of global climate change and how models are needed because of the complexity and time scale of such change. Current issues surrounding climate change can generate many questions for students.

By participating in Budburst, teachers can bring these topics together for students as they explore firsthand how plants respond to changing environmental cues, and how this in turn can affect other components of the ecosystem. Most importantly, Budburst helps students understand the process and nature of science by including them in a scientific community of practice.


In grades 9-12, students are exposed to a greater variety of subjects and are more interested in applying what they are learning to their lives. They typically delve into topics and develop skills and knowledge that prepare them for college and careers. According to educational standards, in grades 9-12, students tackle more complex mathematics, and expand their scientific understanding of living systems (e.g., through the study of natural selection and mechanisms leading to adaptation, through study of how disturbance can alter ecosystems and their functions). They have a better sense of geography and spatial patterns, and are able to use sophisticated tools and technologies to explore their world. By high school, students are more aware of current issues such as global climate change, and can grapple with such issues in the context of their various courses.

Participation in Budburst can provide an engaging, real-world context for learning about many of these topics, as well as a way to become involved in a community of practice. It also provides opportunities for students to develop skill with scientific practices such as collecting and analyzing data, developing arguments and conclusions from evidence, and communicating their ideas both written and orally. All of these are important content and skills for high school students to learn as defined by today’s educational standards.

Because Budburst is a national citizen science program, this document addresses national science standards. District and state requirements of course vary, however many base their standards on these common national standards. See: Next Generation Science Standards.

Next Generation Science Standards

Next Generation Science Standards emphasizes the integration of scientific practices, crosscutting concepts and core ideas, and sets the expectation that educators incorporate all three dimensions throughout instruction.

Guiding principles that underlie the structure of the framework include the natural investigative nature of students; the emphasis on a limited set of core ideas to allow for deeper exploration and understanding; and the recognition that science requires both knowledge and practice. The framework also describes learning where students “build progressively more sophisticated explanations of natural phenomena” rather than focusing only on description in early years and leaving explanation for later grades.

In general, the Framework and subsequent standards that will come from this framework stress the importance of giving students experience with authentic scientific practices in the context of important core ideas. Inviting students to become citizen scientists through Budburst is a natural fit for this type of instruction. Budburst students engage in studies of plants in their own environment, collecting their own data over time and making connections between observed events and natural phenomena.

A summary of the Framework’s practices, concepts and core ideas is listed below, with samples of specific understandings at the grades 9-12 level included.

Scientific and Engineering Practices

Asking questions (for science) and defining problems (for engineering)

Students should be able to ask probing questions that seek to identify the premises of an argument, request further elaboration, refine a research question, or challenge the interpretation of a data set.

Developing and using models
Planning and carrying out investigations

Students should be able to formulate a question that can be investigated within the scope of the classroom, lab, or field with available resources and frame a hypothesis based on a model or theory; decide how much data are needed to produce reliable results and consider any limitations on the precisions of the data; consider possible confounding variables or effects and ensure that the investigation’s design is sufficiently controlled.

Analyzing and interpreting data

Students should be able to use spreadsheets, databases, tables, charts, graphs, statistics, mathematics, and computer technology to collage, summarize and display data and to explore relationships between variables; recognize patterns in data that suggest relationships worth investigating further; distinguish between causal and correlational relationships; evaluate the strength of a conclusion that can be inferred from a dataset using appropriate math and statistical techniques.

Using mathematics and computational thinking
Constructing explanations (for science) and designing solutions (for engineering)

Students should be able to use primary or secondary scientific evidence and models to support or refute an explanatory account of a phenomenon.

Engaging in argument from evidence

Construct a scientific argument showing how data support a claim. Explain how claims to knowledge are judged by the scientific community today and articulate the merits and limitations of peer review and the need for independent replication of critical investigations.

Obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information

Engage in a critical reading of primary scientific literature or of media reports of science and discuss the validity and reliability of the data, hypotheses, and conclusions.

Crosscutting Concepts


It is important for students to develop ways to recognize, classify, and record patterns in the phenomena they observe. By high school, students should recognize that different patterns may be observed at each of the scales at which a system is studied.

Cause and effect: Mechanism and explanation

In high school, argumentation starts from students’ own explanations of cause and effect, and this can help them appreciate standard scientific theories that explain the causal mechanisms in the systems under study.

Scale, proportion, and quantity
Systems and system models

Because of the size and complexity of the natural world, scientists define small portions for the convenience of investigation, and refer to these as ‘systems.’ By high school, students should be able to identify the assumptions and approximations that have been built into a systems model and discuss how they limit the precisions and reliability of its predictions.

Disciplinary Core Ideas

Life Sciences

LS1: From molecules to organisms: Structures and processes

LS2: Ecosystems: interactions, energy and dynamics (in particular C. Ecosystem Dynamics, Functioning, and Resilience)

What happens to ecosystems when the environment changes?”

“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 as opposed to becoming a very different ecosystem. … Anthropogenic changes in the environment – including habitat destruction, pollution, introduction of invasive species, overexploitation, and climate change – can disrupt and ecosystem and threaten the survival of some species.”

LS3: Heredity: Inheritance and variation of traits

LS4: Biological Evolution: Unity and diversity

How does the environment influence populations of organisms over multiple generations?

“Natural selection leads to adaptation – that is to a population dominated by organisms that are well suited to survive and reproduce in a specific environment. … Changes in the physical environment, whether naturally occurring or human induced, have thus contributed the expansion of some species, the emergence of new distinct species as populations diverge under different conditions, and the decline – and sometimes the extinction – of some species. If members cannot adjust to change that is too fast or too drastic, the opportunity for the species’ evolution is lost.”

Earth and Space Sciences

ESS1: Earth's place in the universe

ESS2: Earth's systems (in particular D. Weather and Climate)

“Changes in the atmosphere due to human activity have increased carbon dioxide concentrations and thus affect climate.”

ESS3: Earth and human activity (in particular D. Global Climate Change)

“Global climate models are often used to understand the process of climate change because these changes are complex and can occur slowly over Earth’s history.

Though the magnitudes of humans’ impacts are greater than they have ever been, so too are humans’ abilities to model, predict, and manage current and future impacts.”