KnowAtom's Blog

Francis Vigeant

“Growing up, I wanted to be an inventor, solving problems that would help people have better lives. Every day at KnowAtom is an opportunity to invent solutions that give thousands of students and teachers a better experience doing science, engineering, technology, and math (STEM). Providing educators with professional satisfaction and students with the opportunity to understand the world we live in is my way of helping people have better lives.” As a high school math teacher, Vigeant asked himself a simple question: How can I take the knowledge our students need and make it matter to them? His answer was to create KnowAtom, building its core architecture and platform alignment around the idea of making science, engineering, and math relevant. Vigeant has taught science, engineering, and mathematics to kindergarten through twelfth-grade students in a variety of learning environments, ranging from college prep and honors classrooms to self-contained, team-taught, and inclusion settings. His focus on scientific and engineering process pedagogy and practice has helped schools become leaders in science education, based on common assessment programs. Vigeant is a strong believer in empowering professional teachers and has created Professional Learning Community models for large urban districts. Vigeant’s achievements have been recognized by the American Federation of Teachers’ publication, The Advocate, in which he was profiled as an up-and-coming educational innovator. He is a presenter at the National Science Teachers Association National Conference, Massachusetts Association of Science Teachers, and Massachusetts Technology Education/Engineering Collaborative. Vigeant serves on several STEM-related boards focused on creating opportunities for students and teachers from traditionally underserved communities. He is a graduate of Gordon College.

Recent Posts

How Learning Happens at the Point of Challenge

May 13, 2024 by Francis Vigeant

In the book Making Thinking Visible, researchers and authors Karin Morrison, Mark Church, and Ron Ritchhart write, “Learning happens at the point of challenge.” When we think about what is occurring in the highest performing classrooms, we can come to a better understanding of how learning happens at the point of challenge.

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Topics: Teaching Tools & Strategies

What is the NGSS Three Dimensional Learning Approach?

Oct 18, 2023 by Francis Vigeant

Want to understand the Next Generation Science Standards? In three words: three-dimensional learning. Figuring out exactly what those words mean and how they make NGSS different from existing standards will get you much closer to understanding exactly what is expected in the next generation of science education.

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Topics: Next Generation Science Standards, Three-Dimensional Learning

How to Promote Your School's Science Vision and Curriculum

Oct 18, 2023 by Francis Vigeant

As school leaders become more focused on successfully implementing the Next Generation Science Standards, I’ve noticed one topic is getting more attention than ever before: how important it is that principals understand the new standards and the expectations of a next-generation science classroom.

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Topics: Next Generation Science Standards, Implementing New Science Standards

How to make NGSS Storylines a Student Centered Learning Experience

Apr 21, 2023 by Francis Vigeant


Storyline pedagogy is modeled on a new partnership between students and teachers. The students’ own questions are the catalyst for each part of an NGSS storyline. Through self-discovery, reflection, questioning, and risk-taking, students make connections across science disciplines and concepts. Through student-let investigation, they make personal connections with the phenomena and engage in deeper learning. The teacher’s role in this next generation learning model is essential. They must create a culture of thinking and a safe space for risk taking by allowing students agency over their own learning. Classroom frameworks and formative assessment can help release responsibility onto the students for this to occur consistently.

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Topics: Phenomena-Based Learning, NGSS Storylines

How to Improve the Effectiveness of NGSS Storylines with Formative Assessments

Apr 6, 2023 by Francis Vigeant

In Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)-based classrooms, students are required to learn more than facts. The standards are skills and performance-based, grounded on the understanding that students need to build their own skills and work with their own ideas, rather than the ideas of others. NGSS storylines promote this type of personal, hands-on learning through an investigation into real-world challenges.

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Topics: Socratic dialogue, NGSS Storylines

Deeper Learning Hands-on Screens-off: NGSS 3 Dimensions & Storylines

Mar 24, 2023 by Francis Vigeant


The world needs more big thinkers – scientists and engineers with the critical thinking skills to tackle the big challenges facing our world. Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)-based three-dimensional learning, or “NGSS 3 Dimensions’ are designed to build those critical thinking skills and connect learning science with building a better understanding of the world we live in. Storyline pedagogy sparks hands-on learning over a series of episodes where students create, evaluate, and analyze. These are higher-level thinking skills that scientists and engineers use every day.

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Topics: Phenomena-Based Learning, NGSS Storylines

How to Launch NGSS Storylines Anchored with NGSS Phenomena

Mar 10, 2023 by Francis Vigeant


The next-generation model of instruction is based on students being in direct contact with the content. Storyline pedagogy accomplishes this with a child-centered, thinking-driven approach to each lesson, inspired by the students’ own questions. Throughout a Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) storyline, students unpack complex phenomena, develop personal connections through their own discovery process, and link their new knowledge to better understand the world around them. In doing so, they are creating something personally meaningful to them. But this takes longer than a 45-minute class. Instead, a storyline is made up of a series of unscripted episodes of discovery that are connected by the students’ own reasoning.

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Topics: Phenomena-Based Learning, NGSS Storylines

How to Use Socratic Dialogue to Drive Discussion in NGSS Storylines

Feb 24, 2023 by Francis Vigeant


A student-led discussion offers a low-stakes way for kids to wonder, ask questions, and change their minds. In the classroom, Socratic dialogue encourages students to think like scientists and engineers as they connect new information to their current knowledge, learn from their peers, and strengthen their understanding of the world around them. Socratic dialogue is the second step in the KnowAtom Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)-led lesson routine.

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Topics: Socratic dialogue, NGSS Storylines

How to Use NGSS Phenomena to Construct Meaningful Storylines

Feb 8, 2023 by Francis Vigeant


When we invite students to investigate real-world phenomena as scientists and engineers, we’re giving them the opportunity to link what they learn in class to the world around them. Challenging students to uncover how and why a phenomenon occurs by questioning, testing, and discussing it engages them in deeper learning. When students realize they can use their scientific knowledge to explain and predict real-world phenomena, we are helping kickstart a lifetime love of learning.

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Topics: Phenomena-Based Learning, NGSS Storylines

Engage Science and Engineering as a Way of Thinking with NGSS Practices

Jan 20, 2023 by Francis Vigeant

Exploring the Role of Scientists and Engineers with NGSS Storyline Pedagogy

The next-generation model of science instruction is not just about giving students a chance to take the lead in their own learning – it’s about students acting as scientists and engineers every day in the classroom. When we introduce real-world phenomena into the learning process, we connect classroom instruction to career exploration. With NGSS storyline pedagogy and science and engineering practices, students are unpacking complex phenomena over days and weeks. They explore real-world events, understand the purpose of the work of scientists and engineers, and use their current knowledge to uncover new information – strengthening critical thinking, communication, math, and ELA skills in the process.

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Topics: science and engineering practices, NGSS Storylines

Encourage Deeper Learning with Creative NGSS Storylines

Jan 8, 2023 by Francis Vigeant

The act of storytelling has been used to communicate information for centuries. The science behind its success is clear. Storytelling helps audiences connect personally to the subject matter, remember key facts, understand complex ideas, and learn from one another’s experiences. Research from Uri Hasson, professor of psychology and neuroscience at Princeton University, showed recently that when we hear a story unfold, our brain waves start synchronizing with the storyteller’s. 

Teachers see these results in their classrooms every day. When we connect classroom learning to real-world phenomena and engage students in critical thinking, hands-on learning, and personal reflection, we create the same type of high-level engagement as storytellers. When we challenge our students to ask questions, solve problems, and connect their classroom learning to real-world events, we use Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) storylines to bring learning to life.

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Topics: NGSS Storylines

Forming Evidence-based Conclusions and Debriefing CER in Science K-8

Mar 29, 2022 by Francis Vigeant

Key Learning Objectives:

  • What is a CER Conclusion
  • What Makes a Complete Conclusion
  • How to Write a CER Conclusion
  • How You Set Up Debriefing and Sharing Conclusions Matters
  • Tools: Motivation and Using Checkpoints and Concept Maps to Debrief Thinking

The focus of this article is on forming claim-evidence-reasoning (CER) conclusions and debriefing in NGSS Science - the fifth and last step in the KnowAtom lesson routine, and an important way to finish each lesson. When using the KnowAtom lesson routine, students discover phenomena, discuss it, and then try to answer a question or solve a problem related to it. With hands-on science instruction, students have the opportunity to be scientists and engineers, while they respond to real world problems and work together to solve them.

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Topics: Science Curriculum, Hands-On Tools

Using Socratic Dialogue with NGSS Curriculum

Feb 4, 2022 by Francis Vigeant

The second step in the KnowAtom lesson routine for grades K-8 is Socratic dialogue. This is an important part of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)-based curriculum for students of all ages. If you're new at implementing scientific discussions or looking to improve the Socratic dialogue in your classroom, it's important to set clear expectations for yourself and your students. Knowing what you should expect as a teacher-facilitator and what you should expect from your students as they become more familiar with Socratic dialogue in your science class, will help improve your results.

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Topics: Next Generation Science Standards, Socratic dialogue, Implementing New Science Standards

Science for the Next Generation: Preparing for the New Standards

Nov 17, 2021 by Francis Vigeant

Educational leaders often speak about preparing the “next generation” for the future. In the years ahead, the next generation will work in jobs that are just emerging or don’t yet exist and will face challenges we can only theorize on today. While leaders often pay lip service to “investing” in the next generation, only one content area explicitly states that the next generation is their focus. That area? Science.

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Topics: Next Generation Science Standards

What Are the Next Generation Science Standards?

Nov 12, 2021 by Francis Vigeant

What Does NGSS Stand For? NGSS refers to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) which are used in some form by 44 US states and territories to shape instruction and excite the next generation of scientists and engineers. Developed by prominent scientists and teachers, the NGSS aims to inspire curiosity and engagement for students who might otherwise lose ambition for STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) as they enter middle school.

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Topics: Next Generation Science Standards

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