NGSS in a nutshell:

NGSS differs from prior science standards in that they integrate three dimensions (science and engineering practices, disciplinary core ideas, and crosscutting concepts) into a single performance expectation and have intentional connections between performance expectations.  

The NGSS make use of five key ideas from the Framework: 1. Limited number of core ideas 2. Crosscutting concepts, 3. engaging in scientific and engineering practices 4. The integration or coupling of core ideas and scientific practices to develop performance expectations 5. An ongoing developmental process.

The NGSS strive for a greater integration among the sciences and engineering, as well as with the Common Core. This integration reinforces concepts across fields to enrich and deepen students' understanding. The divisions among scientific fields is entirely arbitrary; nature knows or cares nothing about biology, chemistry, geology, or physics; there is only nature. One way the NGSS better integrate the sciences is with crosscutting concepts, which are universal principles (e.g., cause and effect, structure and function) that apply to all sciences. Each performance expectation of each standard topic is tied to the most closely related crosscutting concept. Standard topics often have strong connections with one particular crosscutting concept.

Here is a page to look at some of the topics it covers (I have it showing disciplinary core idea: structure = function, which I thought might be quite pertinent:

Here's another way to organize/search for criteria:

An example of some structure/function lessons, aspects of them my be useful in the curriculum