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Your fourth grader and science

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By GreatSchools Staff

Earth science

In earth science, students acquire facts about the earth and its solar system — like why the sun produces light, and how the moon reflects light from the sun. By observing the moon’s phases and constellations, fourth graders should be able to visualize the relative position of the earth and the planets. They should be able to name the planets in the solar system and the characteristics of each.

Fourth graders should receive an introduction to weather. They learn to classify clouds by type and begin to understand how they’re formed. Fourth graders also record weather patterns, using tools that include thermometers and weather vanes.

Physical science

What is physical science? At the most basic level, physical science is the study of the nature and properties of energy and matter.

Fourth graders explore physical science in a number of ways. By studying magnetism and static electricity, kids gain insights into electrically charged objects. They’ll also learn about electrical circuits, including how to distinguish between different types of circuits. They might construct a circuit and use it to test whether objects are conductors — materials like copper, which allow electricity to flow through them — or insulators, like wood, which inhibit electrical currents.

Physical science also incorporates lessons about light. To explore the characteristics of light, some fourth-grade teachers might ask students to conduct experiments using a light source and mirror, and then investigate the way that light travels.

Learning what scientists do

Students in fourth grade are well on their way toward conducting scientific experiments and investigations. They’ll probably get more than a few opportunities to practice their new science process skills, also called investigation or inquiry skills.

“In fourth grade, the idea of using evidence and logical thinking to support their conclusions is possible for many students,” says Fred Stein, our science curriculum consultant.

According to the National Science Education Standards, students should be encouraged to:

  • Ask a question about objects, organisms, and events in the environment
  • Plan and conduct a simple investigation
  • Employ simple equipment and tools (such as microscopes) to gather data and extend the senses
  • Use data to construct a reasonable explanation
  • Communicate investigations and explanations

State science testing

Children may be required to take a state-level science test at the end of fourth grade. To see if your state releases its test questions, search your state department of education's website.

Updated April 2010

Comments from readers

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