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1.1: Background and Overview of Goals

Difficulty Level: At Grade Created by: CK-12
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Welcome to the Modeling and Simulation FlexBook® digital resource, the result of a collaboration between the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the CK-12 Foundation.1

The purpose of this FlexBook® digital resource is to provide high school teachers with an introduction to the main principles of modeling and simulation as used in science and engineering, as well as a set of lesson plans. The chapters on principles and fundamentals were written by university professors, high school science teachers, and practicing scientists and engineers who employ modeling and simulation in their daily work. The lesson plans were developed by high school teachers in collaboration with practicing scientists and engineers from NASA, who worked with the teachers in a two-week modeling and simulation summer workshop. All material has been reviewed by subject matter experts.

As the first release of this FlexBook® digital resource was prepared in the Winter of 2011 - 2012, the “NRC Framework for Next Generation Science Standards”2 (NGSS) was published. It liberally references the use of modeling and simulation in science and engineering. For example, in Chapter 3, Scientific and Engineering Practices – Developing and Using Models, we see in part:

By Grade 12, students should be able to:

  • Represent and explain phenomena with multiple types of models
  • Discuss the limitations and precision of a model
  • Use (provided) simulations or simulations developed with simple simulation tools
  • Make and use a model to test a design or aspects of a design

Furthermore, the NGSS draft for public comment, released in May 2012, provides good examples of Performance Expectations that use modeling and simulation. For example, from Middle (MS) and High School (HS) Earth and Space Science (ESS) Performance Expectations we find:

  • MS-ESS-History of Earth (e.) Use models of the geosphere and biosphere that highlight system interactions to explain how the geosphere and biosphere coevolve over geologic time.
  • MS-ESS-Earth’s Interior Processes (b.) Develop and use models of ancient land and ocean basin patterns to explain past plate motions.
  • MS-ESS-Human Impacts (a.) Use system models and representations to explain how human activities significantly impact: (1) the geosphere, (2) the hydrosphere, (3) the atmosphere, (4) the biosphere, and (5) global temperatures.
  • HS-ESS-Space Systems (b.) Use mathematical, graphical, or computational models to represent the distribution and patterns of galaxies and galaxy clusters in the Universe to describe the Sun’s place in space.

While this represents an excellent advance in high school education content toward 21st century practices, there are very few colleges that teach modeling and simulation either as a part of their teacher preparation programs or even as part of an undergraduate science or mathematics major. A similar situation arose in 2008, when the Commonwealth of Virginia was about to revise its science content standards to include 21st century content such as information on quarks, plasmas, organic chemistry, nanotechnology, and modeling and simulation. Because there were research data3 that indicated many science teachers had less than full knowledge of contemporary and emerging subject areas, the Commonwealth partnered with the CK-12 Foundation to develop the 21st Century Physics FlexBook®: A Compilation of Contemporary and Emerging Technologies. This FlexBook® digital resource was written by a cadre of high school teachers and community college and four-year college professors. It was aimed at providing freely available, technically vetted material in a timely way for teachers to include the new standards in their day-to-day teaching, prior to revised, standard textbooks becoming available.

NASA has a need to assure an appropriate STEM literacy of its next-generation workforce. The CK-12 Foundation is committed to providing free, computer-based, open content to the K-12 community under CC BY-NC license in their FlexBook® format – allowing teachers to customize their lessons as they see fit. Thus, CK-12 and NASA have partnered to develop this FlexBook® digital resource in order to make modeling and simulation technology and methodology freely available to K-12 educators in a timeframe commensurate with the publication of the Next-Generation Science Standards (NGSS).

It is the intent of NASA and CK-12 to update this book over time with additional chapters on modeling and simulation and additional lessons plans. Users are invited to submit their ideas for additions to the CK-12 Foundation at http://www.ck12.org.

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Date Created:
Aug 21, 2014
Last Modified:
Jan 30, 2016
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