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Your fifth grader and science

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By GreatSchools Staff

Earth science

Fifth-graders continue to study the earth, learning about the water cycle and the role of evaporation, precipitation, and condensation. Science students at this level should understand the solar system consists of planets and other bodies that orbit the sun in predictable paths, learning about the earth’s layers and its changing surface. They might also make a model of the earth with different colors of clay that correspond to the crust, mantle, inner core, and outer core. Expect your child to be able to describe how rocks and fossils reveal evidence of a volcanic eruption or plate movement.

Physical science

Physical science is the study of energy and matter. Expect students to learn about the three distinct states of matter: solid, liquid, and gas. Fifth-grade scientists should learn that matter is made up of elements. They should also begin to become familiar with the periodic table, using the periodic table to name and interpret the different chemical elements, looking at different forms of energy — how they can be converted into heat energy. By investigating force, the exertion of push and pull on different objects, they may observe and record data on the rate different objects of varying sizes fall.

Learning what scientists do

Your child will learn to conduct scientific experiments and investigations. She should have many opportunities to practice using science process skills, sometimes referred to as investigation or inquiry skills.

As Fred Stein, our science curriculum consultant, explains: "In fifth grade, students are better able to understand that there can be many possible explanations for a situation, and can debate the merits of explanations based on the evidence."

According to the National Science Education Standards, students in grades 5-8 should be encouraged to:

  • Identify questions that can be answered through scientific investigations
  • Design and conduct a scientific investigation
  • Use appropriate tools and techniques to gather, analyze, and interpret data
  • Develop descriptions, explanations, predictions, and models by using evidence
  • Think critically and logically to make the relationships between evidence and explanations

State science testing

Your child may take a state-level science test at the end of fifth grade. To see if your state releases its test questions, search your state department of education's website.

Updated April 2010

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