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.
Your third grader will be encouraged to form simple hypotheses (untested theories), make predictions, and gather data. As third graders gather information, their hypotheses are often based more on intuition than solid knowledge. Balancing a child’s personal observations with well-expressed scientific fundamentals will guide their understanding. Third-grade teachers introduce many of the following concepts:
Third graders split their time with experiments and time hitting the books. Teachers should encourage their students to design and conduct experiments to answer questions and to test their hypotheses. Third graders will learn to organize and analyze information they have collected through graphs, orally, or in writing. For example, students in third grade might conduct an experiment to determine the best conditions for plant growth by growing bean seeds and varying the amounts of light and water.
"In third grade students are better able to plan investigations that have multiple steps, rather than to simply get started and see what happens," says Fred Stein, our science curriculum consultant.
Many third-grade teachers turn to the lives of famous scientists, like Nicolaus Copernicus and Alexander Graham Bell, for inspirational lessons.
But more important than learning facts is your child's ability to learn skills based on the scientific process, including the following:
Updated April 2010