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Your first grader and science

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By GreatSchools Staff

Getting acquainted with the physical world

Parents can expect their first-grade scientists to learn about the physical world. To understand that air actually has a weight, they might compare the weights of a full and empty balloon on a balance. Likewise, a teacher might introduce life cycles by setting up an area where students watch caterpillars spin cocoons and become butterflies.

Emphasizing skills over facts

More important than the scientific facts at this stage is children’s ability to observe, ask questions, record, and communicate what they experience. For example, a first-grade teacher might introduce the concept that sound is caused by vibration by asking students to explore with rubber bands, tuning forks and other sound makers what they can see, hear, and feel.

"In first grade, students can be expected to record in words as well as drawings what they've done and what they think," says Fred Stein, our science curriculum consultant.

What to look for when you visit

  • Books about the seasons, plants and animals, and the earth as well as the human body
  • Hands-on areas that encourage experimentation and might include water tables, models, and skeletons
  • Safety glasses, thermometers, magnifying glasses, mirrors, bar magnets, and rulers
  • Aquariums, gardens, or other areas that allow kids to learn about the life cycles of plants and animals
  • Posted examples of student work, including lists of observations, questions, or drawings
  • Guest experts from museums, zoos, and botanical gardens

Updated April 2010

Comments from readers

"Very timely! My daughter just mentioned having a science book yesterday; I was curious as to what type of 'science' activities they'd be doing in 1st grade. I taught pre K for 7 years and it was my favorite part of the lesson plans so I make science out of everything at home. Cooking is a great way to provide your children with science activities. Watching their cookies bake due to the heat is fun and yummy too. We bought a butterfly 'farm' at the local toystore this summer and she would read very hungry caterpillar and sit next to the butterfly net until they finally hatched and were released in our backyard. I feel strongly about providing my daughter with these type of activities because as a girl I remember science was more fun for boys in school, I want her to have experiences that I was deprived of. now she wants a scientific explanation for EVERYTHING..."