Academics → Science → Science Curriclum → Elementary School Curriculum
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In Montgomery County Public Schools, the goal of the science program is for all students to achieve full scientific literacy through Next Generation Science Standards aligned and phenomenon-based instruction that will prepare them for success in college and career. The MCPS science curriculum was developed as a coherent learning progression from kindergarten through grade 12 where all students experience a rigorous, interdisciplinary approach to science content, exploring science through hands-on explorations, productive discourse, and purposeful reading and writing. Students apply content knowledge through the scientific and engineering practices to solve real world problems and develop the tools that will make them successful lifelong learners.
The Grade K Science curriculum is an NGSS aligned science program that provides opportunities for students to experience an interdisciplinary approach to science content, exploring all three domains of science (Earth/Space, Physical, and Life Sciences) by actively engaging in science using multiple methods and approaches to teaching and learning. Each unit is built around a culminating STEM activity that challenges the students to use their new found knowledge to design and/or build a hands-on project related to unit topics.
Can changes in weather patterns be observed over the course of the year? Can weather
influence the ability of plants and animals to meet their needs in their environment?
K-PS3-1; K-PS3-2; K-ESS2-1; K-ESS3-2; K-2-ETS1-1; K-2-ETS1-2; K-2-ETS1-3
Kindergarten students begin marking period 1 by exploring the practices of scientists and engineers, and make weather observations using their senses. Students explore the phenomenon of walking barefoot across ground surfaces warmed by sunlight, and go outside to observe the effects of sunlight and shade on objects in the schoolyard and collect data to compare the effects of sunlight on samples of different surface materials. They then use the data to make a claim and test their claims through an investigation of outdoor surfaces. Students deepen their understanding by planning and conducting their own investigation to test the effects of sunlight on papers of different colors. They will then extend their understanding of sunlight and shade to act as weather scientists forecasting heat waves. This understanding of the effects of sunlight is used to design and build a mini-shade shelter which will then be tested using the engineering design cycle.
In marking period two, students expand their exploration of weather. They learn to make weather observations and make daily observations for at least two weeks. They explore rain and wind and will look for patterns in their weather observations. Students investigate severe wet weather patterns (thunderstorms and blizzards), and act as scientists to develop a forecast. Finally, students apply their understanding of weather patterns and severe wet weather to investigate materials, and design and test a roof to keep the rain/snow out of a schoolyard shed.
How do pushes and pulls affect the motion of an object?
K-PS2-1; K-PS2-2; K-2-ETS1-1; K-2-ETS1-2; K-2-ETS1-3
In marking period 3, students begin the unit exploring how spider webs and Venus fly traps catch insects (anchor phenomena). They also explore and sketch different patterns of motion. Students conduct an investigation of how different pushes and pulls (forces) can make an object move faster or slower, using equipment from the school gym. Students apply their understanding of force and motion to design a device to change the motion of a rolling ball which also builds understanding of engineering design. Students then explore how different types of surfaces may also change motion. Finally, students apply their understanding to refine the design of a trap to safely catch an insect in the classroom.
What do plants and animals need to meet their needs and survive within environments?
K-LS1-1; K-ESS2-1; K-ESS2-2; K-ESS3-1; K-ESS3-3; K-2-ETS1-1; K-2-ETS1-2
In marking period 4, students explore the phenomena of humans and animals changing their environments to build homes, and construct a claim with evidence about how animals or people change the environment. Students observe videos and other resources to describe patterns of what animals (including people) and plants need to survive. Students will then observe the plants and animals that live in a pond and/or desert, and construct a model of what the environment provides for different living things. Next, students explore how our trash can impact the environment. Students end the unit by applying their understanding to design an animal habitat.
The Grade 1 Science curriculum is an NGSS aligned science program that provides opportunities for students to experience an interdisciplinary approach to science content, exploring all three domains of science (Earth/Space, Physical, and Life Sciences) by actively engaging in science using multiple methods and approaches to teaching and learning. Each unit is built around a culminating STEM activity that challenges the students to use their new found knowledge to design and/or build a hands-on project related to unit topics.
Can patterns of the sun, moon, and stars be used to make predictions of future observations?
1-ESS1-1; 1-ESS1-2; 1-PS4-2; K-2-ETS1-2
To begin marking period 1, students explore a phenomenon: seeing the Sun and Moon during the daytime. They ask questions about the Sun and the Moon, and observe videos to find answers to their questions and use a model to construct an explanation of how we can see the Moon in the sky. Students make outdoor observations of the Sun’s position in the daytime sky and analyze data to identify patterns. This is followed by students making outdoor observations of the Moon in the night sky (at home) and identifying patterns in the Moon’s position. Students deepen their understanding of sunlight patterns by using math and computational thinking to analyze seasonal data on hours of daylight and height of Sun in the sky. Finally, students apply their scientific understanding to develop their own model to show a selected time of day and season.
How can light or sound be used to send messages over a distance?
1-PS4-1; 1-PS4-3; 1-PS4-4; K-2- ETS1-1; K-2-ETS1-2; K-2-ETS1-3
Marking period 2 begins with students exploring the anchor phenomenon (fireflies and birds sending light/sound messages over a distance), and beginning to plan a device to send light or sound messages in their school building. Students explore how vibrations can create sound by using a tuning fork to create waves in a cup of water, and by conducting an investigation using a string phone model. Next, students investigate the effects of placing objects made of different materials in the path of light and extend their investigation to mirrors reflecting light. Then students apply their scientific understanding to design and build a device that sends a light or sound message to help a teacher /student in their school. Finally, students test and propose ways to improve the device.
Unit Driving Question(s):
How can we solve problems related to organisms and sunlight?
1-LS1-2; 1-LS3-1; 1-ESS1-2; K-2-ETS1-2
Marking period 3 starts with students reading Are You My Mother? By PD Eastman, and are introduced to the anchor phenomenon of parent animals and their offspring: similarities and differences in animal parents and their offspring through images of animals. Students extend their understanding of the similarities between parents and offspring through images of plants and their seedlings. Next, students explore behaviors that parent animals and plants use to help their young grow and survive through a reading and a video and In use videos to determine patterns in the behavior of parent birds that help baby birds to survive, and make connections to the amount of daylight. Then, students apply their understanding as they select one of three local birds (bobwhite, barn owl, or bluebird), explore how the birds nest in the wild, then design a better nest/home. Finally, students construct the model nest/home and explain how the nest/home will help to protect young birds.
How do patterns relate to sunlight throughout the year as well as to relationships between parents and offspring?
1-LS1-1; 1-ESS1-2; K-2-ETS1-2
In marking period 4, students observe and collect plant structures (flowers, seeds, leaves, bark), and relate their features to their function. Students also connect plant structures to changes in the amount of daylight. Students observe seed structures and plant seeds. Next, students explore the work of engineers that mimic the design of plants, and improve the design of a paper helicopter that mimics plant seeds and extend their outdoor exploration to observe the parts of animals and insects. Students will then read an article about an engineer who designed a high speed train, using a bird beak as the model. Finally, students act as engineers to design a raft, using an external part of an animal or plant as a model, and construct an explanation of their design.
The Grade 2 Science curriculum is an NGSS aligned science program that provides opportunities for students to experience an interdisciplinary approach to science content, exploring all three domains of science (Earth/Space, Physical, and Life Sciences) by actively engaging in science using multiple methods and approaches to teaching and learning. Each unit is built around a culminating STEM activity that challenges the students to use their new found knowledge to design and/or build a hands-on project related to unit topics.
What is matter? How is matter described? How can smaller units be used to create larger structures?
2-PS1-1; 2-PS1-2; 2-PS1-3; 2-PS1-4; K-2-ETS1-2
Students investigate matter and its properties. Students begin by investigating the three states of matter (solid, liquid, and gas). They then move into an investigation of properties of matter (color, size, texture). Students use the knowledge gained to determine how properties of matter help materials scientists determine which materials are best suited for a given purpose. Students will then engage in an engineering design challenge to construct a playground structure that can withstand heavy use and heavy rain that causes the playground to flood.
What are landforms and bodies of water? Where can water be found on Earth? Do Earth events happen quickly or slowly?
2-ESS2-2; 2-ESS2-3; K-2-ETS1-2; K-2 ETS1-3
Students begin the marking period 2 unit by exploring landforms in a virtual field trip, and then navigate a virtual island. Students develop a deeper understanding of water bodies on Earth through analysis of multiple sources. Students design their own island that includes seven landform or water features, and draw a two dimensional model with labels. Students explore changes to the Earth’s surface, and use a variety of print sources to make a claim as to whether Earth events occur quickly or slowly. They extend this understanding of different rates of change to Earth’s surface through an investigation of earthquakes. As a culminating activity, students explore the schoolyard to identify changes to the surface due to erosion, design a solution (by sketching) to flooding on the playground, construct a model of their engineering design solution, and construct an explanation how their design solves the problem of flooding on the playground during a heavy rainstorm.
What are ecosystems? What is biodiversity? Can a range of biodiversity be found in ecosystems?
2-LS4-1; 2-ESS2-2; K-2-ETS1-1
Through this unit of study in marking period 3, students investigate the phenomena of habits and the animals that live in them. Throughout the unit, students will work towards the understanding of what a habitat is and the diversity of life that can be found. Students will begin by developing an understanding of what a habitat is by researching and investigating different habitats found throughout the world. Students will then incorporate their math skills by completing a graph on the diversity of life in different habitats and using that data to make a claim about diversity in a habitat. Finally, students will investigate the schoolyard diversity and use their investigation to design and build a bug trap to be placed in the school yard.
Do plants need sunlight and water to grow? How do seeds dispersed? How are plants pollinated?
2-LS2-1; 2-LS2-2; 2-PS1-4; K-2-ETS1-2; K-2-ETS1-3
In this marking period, students explore the phenomena of plant growth, seed dispersal, and pollination. Students begin by setting up an investigation to determine what plants need to grow and survive (sunlight and water). In the next four lessons, students investigate the role of pollinators and the interdependence of plants and animals. The unit ends with students researching the importance of bees in the pollination process and why it is vital to save them. Students will design a bee house and determine the best location to place it.
The Grade 3 Science curriculum is an NGSS aligned science program that provides opportunities for students to experience an interdisciplinary approach to science content, exploring all three domains of science (Earth/Space, Physical, and Life Sciences) by actively engaging in science using multiple methods and approaches to teaching and learning. Each unit is built around a culminating STEM activity that challenges the students to use their new found knowledge to design and/or build a hands-on project related to unit topics.
How can one predict an object’s continued motion, changes in motion, or stability? What underlying forces explain the variety of interactions observed? What is the process for developing potential design solutions? How can the various proposed design solutions be compared and improved?
3-PS2-1; 3-PS2-2; 3-PS2-3; 3-PS2-4; 3-ESS2-1; 3-5-ETS1-3
In this marking period, students will investigate the phenomena of forces. This includes balanced and unbalanced forces and magnetic forces. Students will begin to understand that unbalanced forces will cause an object to move and balanced forces will keep it in one place. Students develop their understanding of the phenomenon of forces through modeling balanced and unbalanced forces with different objects. Through these investigations, students will begin to make predictions about patterns of motion. Students move into the effect of magnets on objects and the force they can exert. The unit ends with an engineering design challenge. Students use the engineering design process to create a car. Students use the criteria and the constraints to design a car that can hold a washer and can interact with magnets to affect motion.
What regulates weather and climate? How and why is Earth constantly changing? How do Earth's major systems interact? What regulates weather and climate?
3-ESS2-1; 3-ESS2-2; 3-ESS3-1; 3-5-ETS1-1
Students begin their study of weather and climate phenomena through an exploration of cloud types and the water cycle. Students will determine what causes the water in clouds to fall as rain and other forms of precipitation. Students develop a deeper understanding of weather phenomena by constructing their own anemometer. They use the device to measure wind speed, and analyze wind speed data to identify patterns. Students extend their understanding of weather to explore climate zones and describe differences among areas; they also combine information to describe climates in different regions of the country. Students explore climate zones of the world by interpreting graphs, and identifying climate zones described in post cards. Students extend their understanding or weather to explore four examples of severe weather. As a culminating activity, students apply their understanding of severe weather events to design a house with a roof that will keep the interior dry during an extreme weather event. Finally, students construct their design solution.
How do physical and behavioral adaptations help animals survive? How do organisms live, grow, respond to their environment and reproduce? How (and why) do organisms interact with their environment and what are the effects of these interactions? How do organisms interact with the living and nonliving environments to obtain matter and energy? How do organisms interact in groups so as to benefit individuals?
3-LS2-1; 3-LS4-2; 3-LS4-3; 3-ESS2-1; 3-5-ETS1-3
Through this unit of study, students investigate the phenomena of animal groups and animal adaptations.Throughout the unit, students will work towards an understanding to be able to answer the question, “What affects an organism’s survival?”. Students will investigate how animal groups help its members survive and the role of predators and prey. Students will also build the understanding that variations in traits (adaptations) among individuals of the same species can provide advantages in survival. Students begin by researching an animal and presenting their findings to the class. Students will then be able to mimic animal adaptations through an investigation of bird beaks and a frog’s tongue. The unit then progresses by having students integrating their previously learned knowledge of climate to how the climate affects an organism’s survival and the adaptations needed to survive in a particular biome.The unit’s culminating activity applies students knowledge by having them create a new species of animal that has been “discovered” in the Temperate Deciduous Forest that is not surviving well in the current location. They will have to decide which biome would better suit the newly discovered animal and why.
What are life cycles and inherited traits? Are characteristics of one generation passed to the next? How can individuals of the same species and even siblings have different characteristics? How are the characteristics of one generation related to the previous generation? How do individuals of the same species vary in how they look, function and behave?
3-LS1-1; 3-LS3-1;3-LS3-2; 3-LS4-1; 3-LS4-4; 3-5-ETS1-2
During this marking period, students will explore the phenomena of inherited traits. They will begin with an exploration of life cycles and compare animal, insect, and plant life cycles to come to the conclusion that all while the stages of life may be different, all organisms grow, reproduce, and die. Students will then investigate inherited traits of both animals and plants and what happens when the environment of the organism changes. Students end the unit by investigating fossils. Students will make comparisons to what the habitat looked like in the past and how it looks now and determine if the organisms in the fossil records would be able to survive today.
The Grade 4 Science curriculum is an NGSS aligned science program that provides opportunities for students to experience an interdisciplinary approach to science content, exploring all three domains of science (Earth/Space, Physical, and Life Sciences) by actively engaging in science using multiple methods and approaches to teaching and learning. Each unit is built around a culminating STEM activity that challenges the students to use their new found knowledge to design and/or build a hands-on project related to unit topics.
How do we move energy and information from place to place?
4-PS4-2; 4-LS1-1; 4-LS1-2; 3-5-ETS1-1
In marking period 1, students observe different forms of energy in order to understand how energy can transfer or move from place to place using sound, light, heat, and electric currents.
Students investigate sound energy and plan and conduct investigations on the different ways we can observe sound energy, how it moves or transfers from place to place. Students will then build an instrument from recycled materials that will use sound energy. Next, students will observe images of different sources of heat and analyze evidence to demonstrate heat is moving from place to place in images and using a thermometer. To extend their knowledge, students will investigate the effect of the Sun’s heat on different colored paper, using a thermometer. Next, students plan and conduct a light energy energy experiment to examine the way light moves from place to place and through different types of matter. Students design a device that converts energy from one form to another. Then, students construct a solar oven to convert radiant light energy from the sun to heat energy. The ovens use reflection and absorption of light to generate heat. Finally, students build a device (circuit) to light a bulb using a light bulb holder, 2 wires, a battery, a battery holder, and bulb. They will use this device to build their understanding of energy conversion (batteries to wire to bulb and back) and conversion (electrical energy transforms into light).
2 & 3
Transfer of Energy
How do organisms receive and process information?
What happens when objects collide?
4-PS4-2; 4-LS1-1; 4-LS1-2; 3-5-ETS1-1; 4-PS3-1; 4-PS3-3
To begin unit 2, students investigate how the senses work together to send signals to the brain and how the brain then processes this information. Students examine and develop a model drawing of the human eye to compare to an animal eye that has the ability to see well in the dark. Students will use these investigations to make connections to how an organism (human or animal) receives and processes information. Students will then design an investigation that allows them to see an object that is not immediately visible to the human eye. Students will continue to focus on the structures of different sensory body parts and how they help animals survive, specifically, different animal ear shapes and then design and create a new ear for themselves that will help them hear better. The students end the unit by designing a device based on animal adaptations, specifically ones for seeing in the dark and better hearing, that allows a person to see and hear better in the dark.
In this marking period, students also begin unit 3. Students are introduced to the anchor phenomena: bumper cars, and what happens when they collide. Students design a rubber band car prototype to help them explore how cars move and what happens when they collide.
3 & 4
Erosion and Weathering
What happens when objects collide?
What effect can water have on land?
4-PS4-1; 4-ESS1-1; 4-ESS2-1; 3-5-ETS1-2
Marking period 3 continues with unit 3. Students explore energy how is changed/transferred during a collision by observing and diagraming a domino chain. Students will apply their understanding to make claims about how energy is being transferred in a bumper car collision. Next, students will “crash test” their rubber band cars from lesson 2 and make observations about how increased speed/energy affects objects in a collision.. Finally, students will apply knowledge gleaned from previous lessons in this unit to work with a team of engineers to design, test, and iterate the “world’s fastest bumper” so that it is functional, fun, and safe in a high energy collision. Students will support their claim by comparing their unmodified rubber band car from a previous lesson for their group’s new design and gathering evidence that their new iteration mitigates the effects of a high energy impact collision.
The beginning of unit 4 will round out marking period 3. students explore the phenomenon of sediment flowing into streams and rivers after a rainfall event, and use Earth materials to model the phenomenon and make observations of erosion by water. Next, students investigate weathering processes by water, ice, and wind and relate weathering to increases in erosion rates. Then, students develop a model of a water wave to describe patterns and connect waves to the movement of Earth materials. Finally, students identify evidence from patterns in Earth materials that demonstrate that Earth’s surface has changed over time.
4 & 5
How can we reduce negative impacts of natural hazards and of resource use?
4-ESS2-2; 4-ESS3-1; 4-ESS3-2; 3-5-ETS1-2
Marking period 4 begins with the last 2 lessons of unit 4. Students design and compare solutions to erosion in a local stream.
In Unit 5, students explore the phenomenon of flooding by analyzing data related to a recent flooding event in Ellicott City, Maryland. Students create a flowchart to model tsunami formation and detection. Next, students compare renewable and nonrenewable energy sources and develop a resource to inform the public. Finally, students develop an emergency plan for a town at risk of flooding.
In Grade 5 Science, students experience an interdisciplinary approach to science content, exploring all three domains of science (Earth/Space, Physical, and Life Sciences) through hands-on explorations, productive discourse, and purposeful reading and writing. The curriculum is problem/project-based where students apply their understanding of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) to propose solutions to real world phenomenon/problems.
How do Earth’s major systems (atmosphere, rivers/oceans, solid Earth, and living things) interact? How do the properties and movements of water shape Earth’s surface and affect its systems? How do humans change the planet? How do particles combine to form the variety of matter one observes? What underlying forces explain the variety of interactions observed? What is the process for developing potential design solutions?
5-ESS2-1; 5-ESS2-2; 5-ESS3-1; 5-PS1-1; 5-PS2-1; 3-5-ETS1-2
Students observe the phenomenon of runoff in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, and engage in a series of investigations to connect runoff in their neighborhood to the environmental health of the Chesapeake Bay. Students develop and use models of the schoolyard and watersheds to identify sites of runoff water. They design, construct and use a tool to collect a sample of water runoff during a rainfall event, and conduct water quality tests. Students use the results of their analysis to propose local actions to reduce the impact of runoff on the environmental health of the Chesapeake Bay. Finally, students take action to implement one of the proposed actions.
How do particles combine to form the variety of matter one observes? How do substances combine or change (react) to form new substances? How can design solutions be compared and improved?
5-PS1-1; 5-PS1-2; 5-PS1-3; 5-PS1-4; 3-5 ETS1-3
Students explore the phenomenon of indoor air pollution, and engage in investigations of matter. They observe the properties of different types of matter, and use their observations to explain why different materials are used to make different products. Students analyze data on the weight of materials that melt, freeze or dissolve and use the data to provide evidence that matter is conserved. They extend their understanding of matter by observing a variety of chemical reactions, and look for evidence that matter has changed into a different kind of matter. At the end of the unit, students apply their understanding of matter to design a solution to indoor air pollution.
What is the universe and what goes on in stars? What are the predictable patterns caused by Earth’s movement in the solar system? What is the process for developing potential design solutions?
5-ESS1-1, 5-ESS1-2, 3-5-ETS1-2
Students observe the phenomenon of startrails, and explore the relationship between the Earth, Sun, Moon, and other stars. They begin by using a model to investigate the relative size and distance of the Earth, Sun, Moon and stars. Students ask questions about the apparent brightness of stars, and investigate how distance from Earth affects the apparent brightness of the star. They make observations of the length and direction of shadows throughout the day to develop an understanding of Earth’s rotation. Students engage in modeling to investigate how Earth’s revolution around the Sun explains changing positions of constellations in the night sky. At the end of the unit, students propose a solution to local light pollution to ensure success of a stargazing event.
How do particles combine to form the variety of matter one observes? How does food provide energy? How do organisms obtain and use the matter and energy they need to live and grow? How do organisms interact with the living and nonliving environment to obtain matter and energy? How do matter and energy move through an ecosystem? How can design solutions be compared and improved?
5-PS1-1, 5-PS3-1, 5-LS1-1. 5-LS2-1, 3-5-ETS1-2
Students explore the phenomenon of plants and animals living and growing on a farm. Students develop a model to show how matter and energy move within a farm system. They conduct an investigation of plant growth to determine the source of new mass in plants. Students obtain information from multimedia resources to explain how different plant structures enable plants to get the air, water, and light they need to live and grow. They use models to describe how plants use sunlight, water and air to produce their own food. Students also explore the roles of decomposers and animals in an ecosystem. At the end of the unit, students design a farm that will grow food to provide healthy lunch choices at a local elementary school.