Crosscutting Concept Posters

sample strip

The  Framework for K-12 Science Education: Practices, Core Ideas, and Crosscutting Concepts identifies seven crosscutting concepts that bridge disciplinary boundaries, uniting core ideas throughout the fields of science and engineering. Their purpose is to help students deepen their understanding of the disciplinary core ideas and develop a coherent and scientifically based view of the world.

These posters represent each of the Crosscutting Concepts. Educators my download and print these posters for noncommercial education use for free. Decorate your classroom with these posters and refer to them as you make connections in science and engineering lessons. You may get the Free Download of all seven posters here in both lineart (for coloring) and tone (ready to hang) here.  Contact me for permission for any commercial or other use.


  • Enlarge the posters to 11″x17″ and print them out in a landscape orientation on card stock paper at a copy center. This can be done directly from these files at a copy center and copiers that accept PDF files.
  • Let your students color the posters. Download a lineart version (no grayscale tones) for coloring.
  • Once your students are familiar with the Crosscutting Concepts, let them make their own posters to represent these ideas. Generating original icons to convey ideas is a novel and creative challenge. Please share any great ideas with me.


patterns 2Patterns Observed patterns of forms and events guide organization and classification, and they prompt questions about relationships and the factors that influence them. The broken chessboard represents a pattern on a gradient from strong to weak. One of the squares in the board does not fit the pattern. Anomalies such as this are often a clue to gaining greater insight about the pattern.


cause and effect 2Cause and Effect: Mechanism and explanation. Events have causes, sometimes simple, sometimes multifaceted. A major activity of science is investigating and explaining causal relationships and the mechanisms by which they are mediated. Such mechanisms can then be tested across given contexts and used to predict and explain events in new contexts. The falling dominoes represent proximate cause and effect. This raises the question of a more ultimate cause, what caused the first domino to fall?

scale proportion quantityScale, Proportion, and Quantity In considering phenomena, it is critical to recognize what is relevant at different measures of size, time, and energy and to recognize how changes in scale, proportion, or quantity affect a system’s structure or performance. Stylized figures represent changes in scale (big to small), proportion (head to body size), and quantity (group vs. single individual).


systems 2Systems and System Models Defining the system under study—specifying its boundaries and making explicit a model of that system—provides tools for understanding and testing ideas that are applicable throughout science and engineering. Interlocking gears represent components of a system that work together. The background set of interlocking squares and arrows suggests connections within a system.

energy and matter 2Energy and Matter: Flows, Cycles, and Conservation Tracking fluxes of energy and matter into, out of, and within systems helps one understand the systems’ possibilities and limitations. The sun represents energy that flows into the structure of a leaf. The matter within the leaf is composed primarily of carbon that cycles between a gas state and a solid.


structue and function 2Structure and Function The way in which an object or living thing is shaped and its substructure determine many of its properties and functions. The spiral of the Chambered Nautilus is similar to the spiral made by squares whose sides match the Fibonacci sequence: 1,1,2,3,5,8… Spirals are often found in nature in structures that grow while maintaining the same proportions.


stability and change 2_2Stability and Change For natural and built systems alike, conditions of stability and determinants of rates of change or evolution of a system are critical elements of study.  Water will change states with changes in temperature. The diagram shows how the crystalline structure of ice is less dense (molecules of water are more spaced apart) than liquid water allowing ice to float.