By GreatSchools Staff
Science isn’t just a body of knowledge — it's a way of acquiring scientific concepts and principles, and the best elementary school programs get students interested in investigating the world around them. As children learn facts and vocabulary, they develop the ability to ask scientific questions, plan experiments to answer these questions, and develop reasonable explanations based on their observations.
Science standards vary widely from state to state and school to school, but the thinking skills taught by science are universal. Most elementary schoolers will get an introduction to sound, electricity, plants, animals, and the three states of matter (solid, liquid, and gas). The National Science Education Standards — the jumping-off place for many states — lists important topics and thinking skills for kindergarten through high school.
The topics below are examples taken from several states and therefore merely guidelines. To see how your child's schoolwork compares, check out your state's science standards.
Expect kindergartners to learn about the world around them through observation and experimentation. Most kindergarten teachers touch on the following topics:
Kindergartners learn how to conduct experiments and record observations. For example, teachers might show their students how to plant seeds in a see-through container, letting kids observe plants as they grow. Another kindergarten science aid, the weather vane, can help students visualize the various directions in which wind blows. Throughout their journey as experimenters, children should be encouraged to observe and communicate the changes they see.
Outside the kinder-lab, students learn about the biographies of famous scientists, like George Washington Carver, Jane Goodall, and the Wright brothers.
Children should be encouraged to notice what they experience with their senses. A kindergartner would not be expected to read a thermometer to learn the temperature outside. Instead, your child might be asked whether it is hot or cold and which seasons typically have hot or cold weather. Likewise, teachers might discuss the food and water needs of a plant, and ask your child to compare them to their own nutritional needs.
A teacher who encourages your child to interact with materials and communicate observations plays a large role in helping her become a successful explorer.
The environment should encourage children to do the following:
Above and beyond any scientific facts, at this stage the focus should be on developing broad skills, including making observations and recording them, often through drawings. For example, teachers might ask their students to bite into an apple, taste it, then talk about their observations while referencing each of the five senses.
Updated April 2010