Conceptual Frameworks

FOSS Modules   |  Conceptual Framework  

The FOSS Program has conceptual structure at the module and course level.  The concepts are carefully selected and organized in a sequence that makes sense to students when presented as intended.  In the last half decade, there has been a great deal of research focused on learning progressions.  The idea behind a learning progression is that core ideas in science are complex and wide-reaching—ideas such as the structure of matter or the relationship between the structure and function of organisms.  From the age of awareness throughout life, matter and organisms are important to us.  There are things we can and should understand about them in our primary school years, and progressively more complex and sophisticated things we should know about them as we gain experience and develop our cognitive abilities.  Determining those logical progressions enables us to develop meaningful and effective curriculum.

FOSS has elaborated learning progressions for core ideas in science for kindergarten through grade 8.  Developing learning progressions involves identifying successively more sophisticated ways of thinking about core ideas over multiple years.  “If mastery of a core idea in a science discipline is the ultimate educational destination, then well-designed learning progressions provide a map of the routes that can be taken to reach that destination”  (National Research Council, A Framework for Science Education, 2011).  Most of this work is behind the scenes, never seen by the user of the FOSS Program.  It does surface, however, in two places.

  • The conceptual framework represents the structure of scientific knowledge taught and assessed in a module or course.
  • The conceptual flow is a graphic and narrative description of the sequence of ideas, presented in the Background for the Teacher section of each FOSS Investigation.


The FOSS modules and courses are organized into three domains:  physical science, earth science, and life science.  Each domain is divided into two strands, which represent a core scientific idea, as shown in the columns in the table:  matter/energy and change; dynamic atmosphere/rocks and landforms; and structure and function/complex systems.  The sequence of modules and courses in each strand relates to the core ideas described in the national framework.  Modules at the bottom of the table form the foundation in the primary grades.  The core ideas develop in complexity as you proceed up the columns.

For more detailed information, download the Framework chapter from any module or course.