Crosscutting Concept Poster Set (version 2.0)


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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. Contact me for permission for any commercial or other use.

The Crosscutting Concept Poster download contains all seven posters in both lineart (for coloring) and tone (ready to hang). A second file contains alternate poster designs from previous versions of some of the posters. Substitute these if you like the old ones better. You can also click on any of the images below to enlarge it (however, these JPEG images are lower resolution than the PDF).


  • 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. The download contains two versions, the first with grayscale tones to print and hang, the second is 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 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. The shell of the Chambered Nautilus is a spiral. Spiral patterns are often found in nature in structures that grow while maintaining the same proportions.

Cause 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, 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. Things that are very small or very large become difficult to observe or even conceptualize. Matter itself even changes its behavior at different scales. Water is a very different substance to a mosquito than to a human. Time scales present interesting questions and research challenges. Changes are either very fast or very slow are also difficult to observe and take creativity to infer. Time also changes relative to speed and proximity to a large gravitational field (note the distorted watch).

Systems 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. Systems can be embedded within other systems. A cell is a part of an organ, that may be a part of a digestive system of a rabbit.  That rabbit is also a player in a larger ecosystem. That ecosystem also interacts with other systems such as social and economic systems. Ask: what are the boundaries of this system (what is in or out)? What are the components? How do they interact? How does the system interact with other systems?

Energy 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.

Structure and Function The way in which an object or living thing is shaped and its substructure determine many of its properties and functions. The skull of the African Lion is adapted to bite powerfully. The jaws are analogous to pliers. In what way is the structure and function of each similar? In what ways are they different?

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.


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