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.
Fourth graders develop their science studies with an overview of the life, earth, and physical sciences. What’s more, kids in fourth grade conduct hands-on science investigations that should ignite their curiosity. They’ll learn what professional scientists do and begin to better understand the concepts in their studies. Some classrooms take field trips to points of scientific interest — a watershed, an observatory, a farm — to extend lessons beyond the classroom.
Life science is the study of the structure and behavior of living organisms. Students of life science start by learning to classify plants and animals according to their characteristics. For example, they might compare animals with backbones (vertebrates, like giraffes and hippos) to those without (invertebrates, like snails and slugs), and they’ll learn to classify characteristics as either inherited or learned (eye color is inherited, riding a bike, learned).
Fourth graders also study the life cycles of animals and plants, observing plants in the classroom and making a life cycle chart or a flip-book to map the cycle’s stages. Fourth-grade life science lessons also include a unit on the life cycles of animals and plants. Your student might observe the life cycle of a plant in the classroom, and then make a life-cycle wheel or flip-book to demonstrate their understanding of each stage in the life cycle. Students also learn about different environments — deserts, rain forests, and wetlands — the different organisms that live in each one and how they adapt to their environment.
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