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Setting the standard in 3D learning and 3D assessment

Welcome to STCMS–a complete program for middle school

  • Coherent storylines
  • Proven results
  • Teacher support

Coherent Storylines

  • Build toward students answering a question or solving a problem
  • Follow a conceptual progression that deepens student understanding as it builds from lesson to lesson
  • Engage students’ curiosity and drive student learning using lesson Focus Questions

Proven Results

  • Raise test scores in science, reading, and math using proven, research-based instructional methods
  • Teach dynamic lessons that integrate science and engineering content at every grade
  • Integrate science content and literacy while drawing upon the Smithsonian’s research, scientists, and world-class collections

Teacher Support

  • Engage your students in investigations that center on 3D tasks, phenomena, and problem-solving
  • Assess student understanding using a three-dimensional system that includes pre-assessment, formative assessment, student self-assessment, and a summative written assessment and performance assessment, accompanied by 3D scoring rubrics
  • Benefit from lesson-by-lesson correlations, common misconception support, and point-of-use teacher tips as you transition to NGSS* and 3D instruction and 3D assessment

Everything you need to teach—Kits, Print, and Digital

The complete middle school program that is setting the standard in 3D learning and 3D assessment

Customize a middle school program that meets your needs with 12 flexible modules that can be implemented using a discipline-specific or integrated model.

Learning Framework for Grades 6–8

Make connections between the sciences and engineering at every grade level

Life Science Earth and Space Science Physical Science
Ecosystems and Their Interactions

LS1-5, LS1-6, LS2-1, LS2-2, LS2-3, LS2-4, LS2-5, LS4-4, LS4-6, ESS3-3, ETS1-1, ETS1-2

Weather and Climate Systems

ESS2-4, ESS2-5, ESS2-6, ESS3-2, ESS3-4, ESS3-5, PS3-4, ETS1-1, ETS1-2

Energy, Forces, and Motion

PS2-1, PS2-2, PS2-3, PS2-5, PS3-1, PS3-2, PS3-5, ETS1-1, ETS1- 2, ETS1-3, ETS1-4

Structure and Function

LS1-1, LS1-2, LS1-3, LS1-6, LS1-7, LS1-8, LS4-2, LS4-3

Earth's Dynamic Systems

LS4-1, ESS1-4, ESS2-1, ESS2-2, ESS2-3, ESS3-1, ESS3-2, ETS1-1, ETS1-2, ETS1-3, ETS1-4

Matter and Its Interactions

PS1-1, PS1-2, PS1-3, PS1-4, PS1-5, PS1-6, PS3-4, ETS1-1, ETS1- 2, ETS1-3, ETS1-4

Genes and Molecular Machines

LS1-1, LS1-4, LS3-1, LS3-2, LS4-4, LS4-5, LS4-6

Space Systems Exploration ©2018

PS2-4, ESS1-1, ESS1-2, ESS1-3, ETS1-1, ETS1-2

Electricity, Waves, and Information Transfer ©2018

LS1-8, PS2-3, PS2-5, PS3-3, PS3-4, PS3-5, PS4-1, PS4-2, PS4-3, ETS1-1, ETS1-2, ETS1-3, ETS1-4

Research Modules
Why Are Honey Bees Disappearing?

LS3-2, LS1-4, LS1-5, ESS3-3, ETS1-1

What Evidence Suggests Similarities Among Organisms?

LS4-1, LS4-2, LS4-3, ESS1-4

How Can We Use Technology to Monitor Aquatic Ecosystems?

PS4-1, PS4-2, PS4-3, ESS3-4

STCMS™ Unit Descriptions

Select a discipline or Research Modules to see the module kits available.

Module Driving Question:
How do organisms interact with one another and their environments?
Performance Expectations:
MS-LS1-5 • MS-LS1-6 • MS-LS2-1 • MS-LS2-2 • MS-LS2-3 • MS-LS2-4 • MS-LS2-5 • MS-LS4-4 • MS-LS4-6 • MS-ESS3-3 • MS-ETS1-1 • MS-ETS1-2
Module Highlights:
As the module opens, pond ecosystems and butterfly ecosystems provide the launching pad for learning how various elements of systems interact. Students build models and work with simulations to learn how the food web, predation, genetics, and the energy pyramid affect ecosystems. By the end of the module, students apply their learning to timely issues such as invasive species, runoff and its impact on drinking water, and landslides.

Module Driving Question:
How do the structure and function of organisms contribute to their survival?
Performance Expectations:
MS-LS1-1 • MS-LS1-2 • MS-LS1-3 • MS-LS1-6 • MS-LS1-7 • MS-LS1-8 • MS-LS4-2 • MS-LS4-3
Module Highlights:
It’s the deadly leaves of a Venus flytrap. Or the startling camouflage techniques of a brilliant octopus. Earth’s diverse array of creatures and plants have unique structures that assist our common quest for survival. Starting at the cellular level for plants and animals, students learn about cells and how those cells work in systems to contribute to survival. Students investigate how photosynthesis and cellular respiration drive the flow of energy and matter in an organism. A close investigation of the nervous system and a frog dissection show the interdependence of organs and their systems. At the end of the module, students research unique systems of organisms—who knew hippos can sweat their own sunscreen?

Module Driving Question:
How has human understanding of inheritance allowed us to influence change in biodiversity?
Performance Expectations:
MS-LS1-1 • MS-LS1-4 • MS-LS3-1 • MS-LS3-2 • MS-LS4-4 • MS-LS4-5 • MS-LS4-6
Module Highlights:
Beginning at the cellular level, students explore the different ways that organisms reproduce and what that means for their genetics. Students learn how traits are passed from one generation to the next as they study zebra fish, plants, protists, and humans. By the end of the module, students create their own “creatures” with unique characteristics and follow those traits to their offspring to learn about inheritance. Using Punnett squares, DNA, and mutations, they predict future generations.

Module Driving Question:
How can data be used to understand weather and climate?
Performance Expectations:
MS-ESS2-4 • MS-ESS2-5 • MS-ESS2-6 • MS-ESS3-2 • MS-ESS3-4 • MS-ESS3-5 • MS-PS3-4 • MS-ETS1-1 • MS-ETS1-2
Module Highlights:
Will tomorrow’s blizzard warrant a shutdown of schools and businesses, or be a minor inconvenience? How do we know? Applying what they already know about weather and climate to the interaction of the Earth, oceans, and the atmosphere, students study storms, winds, hurricanes, and tornadoes. They model the water cycle, the collision of air masses to visualize these effects. Students design a solution to minimize the impact of a storm surge. By the end of the module, students use data sets to predict the weather and make evidence-based claims.

Module Driving Question:
How do the dynamic systems of Earth change its surface?
Performance Expectations:
MS-LS4-1 • MS-ESS1-4 • MS-ESS2-1 • MS-ESS2-2 • MS-ESS2-3 • MS-ESS3-1 • MS-ESS3-2 • MS-ETS1-1 • MS-ETS1-2 • MS-ETS1-3 • MS-ETS1-4
Module Highlights:
How did that aquatic fossil end up on the top of that mountain? Students learn about gradual processes (erosion, deposition, plate motion, and fossilization) and catastrophic events (earthquakes, volcanoes) and how they contribute to changes on the earth’s surface. Students track the transfer of energy, build models, and investigate mineral resources. Students conclude the module with research on preparedness for catastrophic events. Are we ready for “The Big One”?

Module Driving Question:
What can we observe and learn about the universe from our earthly perspective?
Performance Expectations:
MS-ESS1-1 • MS-ESS1-2 • MS-ESS1-3 • MS-PS2-4 • MS-ETS1-1 • MS-ETS1-2
Module Highlights:
Using physical and mathematical models and data analysis, students develop a thorough understanding of the Sun-Earth-Moon system and our entire solar system. They apply what they learn to investigate the criteria and constraints involved with space exploration. As part of the module assessment, students use those criteria and constraints to engineer a solution to human habitation on another celestial body.

Module Driving Question:
How can I affect the motion of objects?
Performance Expectations:
MS-PS2-1 • MS-PS2-2 • MS-PS2-3 • MS-PS2-5 • MS-PS3-1 • MS-PS3-2 • MS-PS3-5 • MS-ETS1-1 • MS-ETS1-2 • MS-ETS1-3 • MS-ETS1-4
Module Highlights:
Can students keep the bananas off the road? Students experience the science behind motion through the analysis of energy, forces, and motion. Students engineer a balloon rocket; apply Newton’s laws to design decisions; and design, refine, and redesign a roller coaster to optimize performance. By the end of the module, students use their science and engineering practices to design a solution for safely transporting fruit.

Module Driving Question:
How do matter and its interactions affect everyday life?
Performance Expectations:
MS-PS1-1 • MS-PS1-2 • MS-PS1-3 • MS-PS1-4 • MS-PS1-5 • MS-PS1-6 • MS-PS3-4 • MS-ETS1-1 • MS-ETS1-2 • MS-ETS1-3 • MS-ETS1-4
Module Highlights:
Keeping drinks cool, warming up hands in the cold, curing headaches, and making salad dressing: Chemistry is such a part of our lives that we forget it’s there! Students record what they already know about (but maybe never really thought about) matter and how it changes. They use this backbone to build new knowledge so that by the end of the module, students can engineer an eco- and pet-friendly cold pack based on what they have learned about chemistry.

Module Driving Question:
How do the properties of electricity and waves influence the technology of information transfer?
Performance Expectations:
MS-LS1-8 • MS-PS2-3 • MS-PS2-5 • MS-PS3-3 • MS-PS3-4 • MS-PS3-5 • MS-PS4-1 • MS-PS4-2 • MS-PS4-3 • MS-PS4-3 • MS-ETS1-1 • MS-ETS1-2 • MS-ETS1-3 • MS-ETS1-4
Module Highlights:
Applying what they know about energy transfer, students design and build a solution to maximize or minimize thermal energy transfer. As part of the module assessment, students research and present information about neurological disorders that affect sensory receptors and the storage or use of information.

Module Driving Question:
Why are honey bees important, and what can we do to minimize human impact on these populations?
Performance Expectations:
MS-LS3-2 • MS-LS1-4 • MS-LS1-5 • MS-ESS3-3 • MS-ETS1-1
Module Highlights:
Collapsing honey bee colonies! Using their research on honey bees, students design solutions to lessen human impact on colony collapse disorder (CCD) and develop a communication plan to educate their community about CCD.

Module Driving Question:
Where did whales come from?
Performance Expectations:
MS-LS4-1 • MS-LS4-2 • MS-LS4-3 • MS-ESS1-4
Module Highlights:
Walking whales? Using their research about the ancestors of whales and their analysis of the fossil record, students make an evidence-based claim to explain how present-day whales evolved.

Module Driving Question:
How do phytoplankton affect aquatic ecosystems, and how can we use technology to monitor them?
Performance Expectations:
MS-PS4-1 • MS-PS4-2 • MS-PS4-3 • MS-ESS3-4
Module Highlights:
Killer phytoplankton! Using their research on harmful algal blooms (HABs) in a specific region, students make proposals to minimize human impact or mitigate harmful effects. Students describe the evidence and scientific reasoning that support the claim that human activity contributes to HABs.

A Complete Package!
Each STCMS™ Module Kit Includes:

Print and Digital Resources
  • Teacher Edition
  • 16 Student Guides
  • Interactive Digital Access Through
    • Digital Teacher Edition
    • Digital Student Guide
    • Simulations and Videos
    • Spanish Student Guide and Blackline Masters


Hands-On Materials Kit of Choice:
  • 1-Class Kit (with enough materials for up to 32 students)
  • 5-Class Kit (with enough materials for up to 5 classes per day, 160 students)

Kits are easily refurbished! STCMS™ refurbishments sets contain all the items used up while teaching the module.

STCMS Resources

Learn More About the Program

Coherent Storylines

  • → Build toward students answering a question or solving a problem
  • → Engage students’ curiosity with Lesson Focus Questions


Proven Results

  • Raise test scores in science, reading, and math using proven, research-based instructional methods


Teacher Support

  • → Point-of-use Teacher Edition support
  • → 3D assessment system
  • → 3D investigations with a focus on phenomena


Learning Framework

  • → A complete program for middle school
  • → Make connections between the science and engineering at every grade level


3D Learning and 3D Assessment

  • A coherent system of 3D assessments to gauge student understanding


Support DEAI

Making K-12 STEM education more accessible and inclusive to diverse audiences across all platforms and communities


Lesson Samplers

  • → Grades 6–8
  • → Contain 1 focus lesson
  • → Illustrates module learning progression


Get Ready! Professional Learning Video Library

Learn the ins and outs of the Smithsonian Programs for K–8 on your schedule using online videos, webinars, and chats with Carolina consultants and educational trainers.



Whether you’re teaching from your classroom or teaching your students at home, you need to be able to engage your students in three-dimensional learning and continue to support ELA and math.


Science and Engineering

  • → Science and Engineering integrated at every grade level
  • → Working like engineers to solve problems
  • → Working like scientists to explain phenomena


White Papers, Case Studies, and Infographics

Learn more about Smithsonian programs through a variety of whitepapers and case studies


Frequently Asked Questions

Are you looking for a new middle school science program? Here are some common questions educators like yourself have about Smithsonian’s STCMS.


Carolina Science Online

Learn how Carolina Science online supports teachers and students in using STCMS



Click on these short videos to learn more about the philosophy of the Smithsonian Science Education Center and what drives the development of their programs.



NGSS Correlation

Find My State Correlations

Professional Development

From Program Implementation to Assessing and Needs Check-in

  • → A working partnership
  • → Customized to your individual needs
  • → Multiple formats available


Digital Support

  • → Training to get you started
  • → Online tutorials for when you need them
  • → Help Desk and live chat available to answer questions


Science Content and Pedagogy Support

Professional Development for teachers and Leadership Development for teacher, administrators, and community leaders available from the Smithsonian


Resources from the Smithsonian Science Education Center

Smithsonian Science for Makerspaces

A series of engineering design challenges for students


Good Thinking Misconception Support

Short-format videos that explore common student ideas and misconceptions and how to address them


Smithsonian's Game Center

Educational games for K–8


Explore Smithsonian

A behind-the-scenes look at the science and research of the Smithsonian Institution.


Free Resources from the Smithsonian

Explore Curriculum and Resources from the Smithsonian


Smithsonian Programs in the News

Visit the Smithsonian Science Education Center for more news and information.


Supporting DEAI

Making K-12 STEM education more accessible and inclusive to diverse audiences across all platforms and communities


The complete middle school program that is setting the standard in 3D learning and 3D assessment

Frequently Asked Questions

Are you looking for a new middle school science program? Here are some common questions educators like yourself have about Smithsonian’s STCMS.

STCMS is a hands-on science program that brings highly engaging 3D learning and 3D assessment to middle school classrooms.

Developed by the Smithsonian Science Education Center (SSEC), STCMS modules:

  • → Present engaging storylines that pique students’ curiosity and drive student learning
  • → Provide everything teachers need to teach the new standards
  • → 3D instruction and 3D assessment
  • → Seamless literacy, math, and digital integration
  • → Hands-on materials kits

→ Three modules per grade level provide a full year’s worth of instruction to teach all your middle school standards.

Everything a teacher needs to teach! Every module purchase includes:

  • → Print and digital Teacher Guide for complete 3D instruction
  • → 3D assessment system
  • → Student Guides (hardcover print and eBook)
  • → Digital resources
  • → Hands-on materials kits (1-class or 5-class configurations)
  • → Spanish resources
  • → eBook Student Guides
  • → Student Sheets and BLMs

Hands-on materials kits are available in two sizes: A 1-class kit provides material to teach one class of 32 students one time, and a 5-class kit provides materials to teach up to five classes of 32 students one time. Digital access for teachers and students through Carolina Science Online™ is always included! There are never any teacher or student licensing fees—ever!
Yes! STCMS was developed to meet the three dimensions of the NGSS. A blend of hands-on investigation, science literacy, and digital integration immerses students in real-world phenomena and asks them to solve real-world problems. Examples of phenomena in STCMS include exploring the energy and motion of roller coasters and balloon rockets and the flow of energy through ecosystems in the context of classroom-created ponds. Examples of engineering design problems include finding a way to keep fruit from a food truck from falling into the street and designing a detailed plan for a storm-resistant building.
The STCMS 3D assessment system provides powerful tools that allow you to assess your students every step of the way and use the results to adjust instruction to help prepare them for middle school testing.
The 3D assessment system includes:
  • → Pre-assessments that reveals student misconceptions and informs instruction
  • → Formative assessments, including Exit Slips and Reflecting on What You’ve Done, to help teachers gauge student understanding through writing, technical drawing, and claims and evidence
  • → Summative assessments, composed of a performance task and a written component, that assess three-dimensional learning
  • → 3D rubrics to help teachers evaluate student proficiency in all three dimensions of the NGSS
Learn more about 3D Learning and 3D Assessment
Science, literacy, and math are natural partners. By using STCMS, teachers can efficiently prepare students to meet science, math, and English language arts (ELA) standards.
STCMS modules integrate reading and writing literacy that develops student understanding by making direct connections between experiential phenomena and the real world through reading selections within the Student Guide and through student notebooking.
Lesson investigations ask students to engage with middle school–appropriate math skills, allowing them to learn to quantitatively describe and measure objects, events, and processes.
Common Core ELA and Math connections are highlighted in the lesson planner of each Teacher Edition.
Yes! Smithsonian’s STCMS hands-on program INCLUDES kits with every purchase. The quality, durability, and age appropriateness of curriculum kit materials are at the forefront of the development of kits from Carolina. All materials are rigorously tested for quality and durability in the classroom and for effectiveness of intended outcomes in investigations. Careful consideration is given to cost and reusability of materials for all kits. Kits are packaged in durable, stackable totes for maximum storability and mobility.

Show me the kits

1-class kits contain enough consumable materials to teach the unit 1 time to a class of up to 32 students. 5-class kits contain enough consumables (including living materials cards for those kits that have them) to teach the unit to up to 5 classes of 32 students (160 students) a day. The number of reusable/non-consumable items does not vary between a 1- and 5-class kit.
Many of the items in the Smithsonian’s STCMS module kits can be reused. For items that are consumed and need to be replenished, 1-class and 5-class refurbishment sets are available. Refurbishment kit vouchers are available for pre-purchase at the start of implementation for future use. Additionally, individual component items are available for purchase using the Smithsonian Components Catalog,, or Carolina’s Customer Service.
Refurbishment kit vouchers allow you to pre-purchase refurbishment kits for multiple years of program implementation. Vouchers can be redeemed when you are ready to refurbish your kits. Vouchers include the cost of shipping, so there is no added expense at the time of redemption.
Yes! The hands-on approach of STCMS naturally supports the diverse learning styles and abilities among students. The program provides teachers with tools to support these diverse needs and students with first-hand learning experiences.

Hands-on investigations offer students a variety of ways to demonstrate understanding through writing, drawing, and student discourse. This in turn offers teachers a variety of ways to monitor students’ progress and understanding.

Functionality of resources was considered during development. Modules provide:
  • → Student Guides available in print and digital formats and in English and Spanish. .
  • → Digital Student Guides allow for close reading strategies and text-to-speech capabilities.
  • → Digital PDF formats of Student Sheets and Lesson Masters allow teachers the ability to edit for the different needs of their students.
Yes! Student resources are available in Spanish—both in print and digitally.
Spanish resources include:
  • → Student Sheets
  • → Lesson Masters
  • → Student Guides
Smithsonian’s STCMS thoughtfully and flexibly integrates digital resources that meaningfully enhance learning. Whether a classroom is 1-to-1 or has only one computer, you can fully teach this program.
Digital resources include:
  • → Video clips
  • → Informational web links
  • → Photos
  • → Simulations
  • → Data sets and more!
Yes. Carolina Science Online is compatible with most LMS.

Yes! There are two ways to preview the program. We offer a digital review of the complete program. If you would like to see more, we can arrange to have samples sent for your review or talk to you about setting up a pilot.

No! Recognizing that there is tremendous variation in access to technology, Smithsonian’s STCMS was designed for flexible integration of digital resources. Investigations that utilize digital resources were designed to be completed in small groups, pairs, or individually, depending on the available technology. Whether a classroom is 1-to-1 or has only one computer, students have everything they need to complete every investigation.

Yes! There are two ways to preview the program. We offer a digital review of the complete program. If you would like to see more, we can arrange to have samples sent for your review or talk to you about setting up a pilot.

Contact me about reviewing the program.

As the diversity of students’ academic, cultural, social, and linguistic background continues to rise in classrooms across the United States, how do teachers continue to move those young minds forward? Support for minority or non-dominant groups was carefully considered in the design of each Smithsonian STCMS module. The incorporation of literacy selections within the Student Investigation Guide, which intentionally feature woman and minority scientists and engineers, provide information about possible career paths and incorporate topics relevant to a variety of racial and ethnic minority groups.

Additionally, Innovators in Science, a digital resource on Carolina Science Online, offers a continually growing library of biographies of a diverse cross-section of members of the science community. Care was taken during development to include a variety of ethnicities, genders, and sexual orientations These resources focus on an individual’s accomplishments and contributions to the science community. Teachers have the flexibility to choose how to incorporate these resources to best serve their diverse population of students.

View Innovators in Science

Never! Digital access for teachers and students is included with your purchase of the program and extends through the life of the adoption.

Yes! Carolina Biological Supply Company is committed to providing comprehensive, customized professional development to meet the needs of teachers, staff, and administrators. Carolina’s professional development provides multiple opportunities for all teachers to master the curriculum and implement best practices. Formats include hands-on workshops, webinars, and teacher resource videos. Learn more about Get Ready! Professional Learning

You’ve purchased STCMS. Here are some common questions. 

Teacher’s editions are found within the red crate that has the item number in this format: XXXXXX-1. Teacher’s editions are typically found on the floor of the crate to avoid any warping.

Digital resources are accessed using a code sent via email when your kit is shipped. We often send the email to whoever placed the order, usually a purchaser at your school or district. If you cannot find the email, call our customer service team at 800.334.5551.

They will be able to locate the code and help you access your resources. If possible, have the order number or purchase order number available to help them locate your information quickly.

To redeem your voucher and request shipment of your materials, follow the steps below. Place your order 10 days prior to when you want to receive it.

1. Go to

2. Enter your shipping information and the redemption code(s) from your voucher(s).

3. Follow the remaining instructions to complete your request.

Your living materials sheets will be in a clear shipping envelope that looks like this that is adhered to the side of the blue tub of the kit if it is new or the side of the brown Carolina box if it is a refurbishment. (Remember to hang on to the 2 additional sheets/sheet sets if you’ve purchased a 3-Use kit or refurbishment.)

Living materials sheets have a control number that can be used to order the live materials. Directions for ordering are on the sheet.

Call customer service at 800.334.5551 with your order number. They will be able to look up the living materials control number for your specific order.

Care guide information for units that have living materials can be found in Tab 5 Materials Management and Safety section of the teacher’s edition. If you are using the digital teacher’s edition, this information can be found by clicking on the Module Title →selecting the Front Matter and Resources tile → Tab 5 Materials Management and Safety

Module materials that require and SDS are designated in the Materials List of the Teacher’s Edition with a dagger (†).

Chemical components that require SDS information (components designated in the Materials List of the Teacher’s Guide with a dagger (†) are available at .

Click here to view regional sales information and identify your region’s sales manager or contact us at .

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