Landmark Lesson Plan: Setting the Standards of Excellence

Grades: 9-12
Subject areas: Chemistry and history
Principal author: Susan Cooper

The following inquiry-based student activities are designed for use in high school chemistry lesson planning, but they apply to all science subjects as well as history. Some middle school teachers may also find the lesson outline helpful. The lesson plan will help students understand the need for standards in all areas of science as well as how standards have evolved during the past two centuries. The last activity in the lesson plan invites students to reflect in writing on how standards relate to their lives.

The lesson plan is designed as a ready-to-go lesson, easily implemented by a teacher or his/her substitute, to supplement a unit of study. The chemistry activities relate to physical and chemical properties of substances. The history activities connect the chronology of standards development with the need for standards. Students also practice critical reading and writing skills in the lesson.

Download the complete lesson plan (PDF).

Resources include:

  • Teacher’s guide: Includes the handout, student activities and answer guide
  • Handout: “National Institute of Standards and Technology”
  • Student activities: Include the four activities described below.

Student activities:

While these activities are thematically linked to the need for standards development, each is designed to stand alone as an accompaniment for the handout. Teachers may choose activities based on curricular needs and time considerations. 

  • Anticipation Guide and Handout on the “National Institute of Standards and Technology” Students examine their ideas about the importance and development of standards. (5 minute introduction, followed by 15-20 min. of reading)
  • History Exercise: Chronology of Standards Development Students chronologically order events in the reading and relate development of standards to world events. (10-15 min.)
  • Graphic Organizer: Chemistry and NIST Students describe industries initially served by standards development, andmeasurement units used for each standard. (10-15 min.)
  • Writing Exercise: Standards and You Students examine three ways the work of NIST affects their lives, including thechronology and how their lives would be different without this work. (20-25 min.)

building on fire
NIST tests such as this one in 1928 led to fire standards for buildings.
automotive coating with scratches
To improve scratch resistance, NIST is studying damage to automotive coatings.
Eastman Chemical Co./K.Irvine, NIST
High-resolution image
“National Institute of Standards and Technology” commemorative booklet
“National Institute of Standards and Technology” commemorative booklet produced by the National Historic Chemical Landmarks program of the American Chemical Society in 2001 (PDF).