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Informacion en Español.

What is CIPS?

Constructing Ideas in Physical Science is a yearlong physical science course. It is inquiry-based, which means it is designed to engage students in building understanding of basic concepts and skills. Students perform hands-on, minds-on activities, which follow a learning cycle of four phases:  

1. Finding out students’ initial ideas about a topic

2. Development of new or changed ideas

3. Confirmation of students’ ideas by comparing them with formal science ideas

4. Application of agreed ideas to new situations

The CIPS project is supported by the National Science Foundation and aligned with state and  National Science Education Standards.


What topics are addressed in CIPS?

The CIPS course is based on the powerful themes of interactions and energy transfers between objects. CIPS has five units. Each unit consists of two or three cycles of carefully crafted activities that help students develop physics and chemistry concepts. The five units are:

Unit 1: Foundations

Unit 2: Interactions and Energy

Unit 3: Interactions and Forces

Unit 4: Interactions and Conservation

Unit 5: Interactions of Materials


Advances in science and technology are changing the skills needed in the modern workplace. Science and technology education must not be limited only to those who expect to work in science, engineering, and related fields.

Two national projects* have identified the scientific knowledge and skills that all students should have the opportunity to learn at various stages in the K-12 science curriculum. Recent research indicates that inquiry-based learning helps students develop a deeper conceptual understanding of fundamental ideas in science. The CIPS physical science curriculum was developed using this research base, and the standards and benchmarks identified for middle-school students. In this way, CIPS strives to improve scientific and technological literacy for all students.

How do CIPS students experience science?

The CIPS classroom is different from the traditional science classroom where experiments are often used to confirm an idea previously presented by the textbook and teacher. In the CIPS inquiry-based classroom, students perform investigations and discuss the meanings of their investigations in small and large group formats. Many of the laboratory activities are accompanied by the use of powerful computer-based simulations. Students are always required to support their claims and explanations with evidence and reasoning.

The students are involved in science activities where they think, write, and reason about the physical world and how it works. This is demanding work that requires learners to become part of a scientific learning community where cooperation, evidence, and reason are prized.

In addition, CIPS provides a companion fiction text titled Chronicles of the Wandering Star. The entertaining story line is woven around the concepts that are developed in the course. It serves as a motivational tool and improves language skills and literacy.


How are students evaluated?

Because the CIPS learning environment values deeper conceptual understanding, students will have many opportunities to demonstrate their mastery of the concepts and skills introduced in the curriculum.

In addition to cycle quizzes and unit tests, each cycle includes several practice and application activities that can be assigned as homework and/or used for ongoing assessment.

How do students react to inquiry-based instruction?

Students react very positively toward an activity-based science curriculum. However, compared to traditional courses, CIPS requires students to assume more responsibility for their own learning. At first, some may find this approach disconcerting. Often, these students just need the opportunity to build confidence in their own ability to think like a scientist. Once students develop the idea that they are capable of scientific thinking, they begin to appreciate the inquiry approach where they construct and evaluate their own explanations rather than memorize the conclusions of others.

Who developed CIPS?

CIPS was developed by a group of internationally recognized science educators and award-winning teachers. The CIPS staff consists of highly dedicated professionals with an understanding of the scientific literacy needed for the current workplace. Many of the CIPS staff are parents and have personal experience with the unique middle school learner. This collective experience has enhanced the development of the CIPS curriculum.

How can I find out more about CIPS?

For more information browse this website or contact the publisher:

It’s About Time
84 Business Park Drive,
Armonk, NY 10504
Phone: 1-888-698-8463 (toll free)
Fax: 914-273-2227


* NRC: National Science Education Standards; AAAS Project 2061: Benchmarks for Scientific Literacy

Project supported by NSF Grants ESI-9812299 and ESI-0138900, San Diego State University and Western Michigan University.


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