How does matter cycle through ecosystems? Where does the energy in food come from and what is it used for? How do the lengths of day and night change from day to day?

Fifth grade science explores systems of all kinds. Your child will learn that matter changes, but no matter what change matter undergoes, its weight stays the same. How energy moves through food webs is another core concept this year. Some animals eat plants for food and other animals eat the animals that eat plants. Organisms such as fungi and bacteria break down the dead organisms, and some of that decomposed material goes back into the soil where it supplies nutrients for — you guessed it — plants!

Fifth graders also turn their attention skyward and learn how the orbits of Earth around the sun and of the moon around Earth, along with Earth’s rotation, cause day and night, daily changes in the length and direction of shadows, and different positions of the sun, moon, and stars at different times of the day, month, and year. It’s a spectacular year for science, and you can support what your child is learning at home. Try these activities and marvel at their discoveries along with them.

How you can help your child learn 5th grade science

Food web mural

Food webs are big! So give your artist a big canvas — it could be a big sheet of paper taped to a wall, a painted chalkboard wall, an inexpensive canvas drop cloth (available at hardware stores), or cardboard spread outside on the ground. Ask your child to paint, draw, or sketch a food web, in as much detail as she likes, using pencil, chalk, markers, or paint. This is a fun project to do with a friend. If you have an app on your phone that lets you record a time lapse video, film your child while she creates; then play it back and watch the web come to life.

Related 5th grade science worksheets: Decomposing, Food chains at sea, Food chains in a woodland

Be your own sundial

Your fifth grader may have learned about sundials this year. On a sunny day, find a flat spot on the sidewalk or playground without anything nearby that will cast a shadow. Mark a spot with an X, and then have one child stand there while another outlines her shadow in chalk and notes the time. Return to the same spot every hour and trace the shadow again. At the end of the day, ask your child what she observed about how her shadow changed throughout the day, and why she thinks it happened.

Related 5th grade science worksheet: Drawing shadows

Tasty matter

The kitchen is a great place to explore the properties of matter. Freeze juice in ice pop molds to see if changing the juice’s state from liquid to solid changes its volume. Stir together oil and vinegar to make salad dressing, and milk and chocolate pudding mix to make pudding. Ask whether each is a solution or a mixture, and why? Making s’mores over the barbecue is a great way to explore the physical and chemical changes of matter, as marshmallows become molton and chocolate melts. Assemble a s’more and let it cool to see if it goes back to a solid state. (And if you drop a marshmallow into the fire and it burns, you’re looking at a chemical change. Unfortunately irreversible!)

Related 5th grade science worksheet: Freezing point