“What are waves and what do they do? How do water, ice, wind, and plants change the land? What is energy and how is it transferred? How can we use energy to solve a problem?”

Get ready to feel the earth move! Fourth grade science looks deeply at the hidden reasons behind how things work. Kids will learn about the patterns of waves and how they cause objects to move. Energy is a core idea this year — what it is and how it can be transferred from place to place by sound, light, heat, and electric currents, or from object to object through collisions. They’ll practice the process of designing and testing a device that converts energy from one form to another.

They’ll also learn about the history of planet Earth, and that the locations of mountain ranges, earthquakes, and volcanoes occur in patterns. They’ll explore more deeply how plants and animals have internal and external structures that work to make them survive, grow, and reproduce. You can support this at home by asking open-ended questions about why things happen the way they do and offering opportunities for your child to play and experiment.

How parents can help with 4th grade science

Collision course

Playing with how objects transfer energy to other objects is as simple and fun as flicking marbles or pennies. Spread pennies out on a table and flick one penny into the others and watch how it causes the other pennies to move. What happens if you flick it harder? Softer? What other objects can you use to transfer energy in this way?

Related 4th grade science worksheet: Ship shape!

Rubber band band

You can make a surprisingly effective instrument using just a small cardboard box, two pencils, and several rubber bands of different sizes. There are many tutorials online, but essentially your child cuts a hole in the top of the box, tapes the pencils parallel to each other on either side of the hole, and then stretch the rubber bands over the box so that they rest on the pencils, crossing the hole. Play by plucking each rubber band and noticing the different sounds each makes. Now experiment with pressing on the rubber band above the pencil and noticing how it changes the sound. Shorter, thinner, tighter bands create shorter sound waves and a higher-pitched sound. If your child is interested, encourage her to design and build her own instrument.

Related 4th grade science worksheet: Sounds of music

Find the right environment

Buy some inexpensive plant seeds at the store. Have your child plant the seeds in three containers and vary each one’s environment in one slightly different way. Say one is in direct sunlight, one is in indirect sunlight, and one gets no sunlight. Or say one is watered daily, one is watered every two days, and one is watered weekly. Have your child observe what happens to each plant. What is the best environment for this particular plant? How would your child conduct this experiment again to learn more?

Related 4th grade science worksheet: Tree detective