The overall goals of children's development in science are to deepen their conceptual understandings of the world around them, to increase their comprehension of how science is practiced and to develop their abilities to conduct scientific investigations. Adults can help children achieve these goals with a supportive environment.
As children become better readers and more skillful with language, they are able to memorize information, often without any understanding of the concepts involved. But children should not rely solely on what they read or hear as their sources of science understanding. It is as important now as it was throughout their earlier years to ask children to investigate and explore phenomena first hand. Children can better use their language skills to deepen their understanding by talking about what they are thinking and by using evidence to defend their ideas.
Continues to wonder about and investigate a range of phenomena within her immediate environment. Asks questions like, "What will happen if...?" to set up investigations. Builds on previous experiences to ask more specific questions (e.g., might ask, "How does this aquarium filter remove the dirt from the water?" instead of, "Why is there a filter in the aquarium?"). Distinguishes between questions that can be addressed by direct experimentation, such as, "What will happen if I leave a cup of water outside over night?" and those that cannot, such as, "Why does ice freeze when it is cold?" Can conduct scientific investigations by using a "fair test" or controlled experiment where one factor is tested and all other conditions remain the same. Benefits from explorations that go increasingly deeper into science concepts (e.g., compares the properties of water to other liquids like cooking oil or corn syrup).
Collects information by observing and measuring using tools such as calculators, microscopes, cameras, sound recorders, clocks, computers, thermometers, hand lenses, meter sticks, rulers, balances, magnets and compasses. Shows greater maturity in using tools to gather information (e.g., takes a measurement with a ruler instead of a length of string, uses magnifiers and simple microscopes with increased skill). Refines observation skills by noticing more details and incorporating information from all senses in simple notes. Can interpret information from increasingly more complex diagrams, charts and graphs. Pulls together information from a variety of sources to write a report.
Shows increasing ability to record information through drawing and writing. Writes reports that describe and explain topics, objects, events and experiences. Begins to use information gained from multiple sources (e.g., direct experiences, textbooks, observations, Internet and other library resources) to compose reports. Creates paragraphs that have a topic sentence, supporting facts and details and a conclusion. Progresses in ability to collect and represent information in simple graphs, tables, maps and charts. Evaluates information in graphs to draw conclusions, show connections among ideas and answer questions.
"Progresses in ability to support claims with evidence (e.g., says, "Salt water is bad for plants. My records show that every time we added salt to water, the plants died after a couple of days."). Demonstrates improved skills in comparing and classifying. Can use more than one attribute to form groups (e.g., animals that lay eggs but don't fly). Analyzes and interprets information to construct reasonable explanations from direct and indirect evidence."
Shows increased ability to communicate observations both verbally and non-verbally (e.g., drawing, making a model, writing descriptions, creating a chart). Describes things with greater detail (e.g., may write a three-sentence description that includes data gathered from several senses and an expanded vocabulary). States ideas as facts (e.g., says, "Rubber balls are good bouncers."), but can explain his thinking with increasing logic. May not fully understand a science concept even though he can talk about it.
Progresses in ability to listen to and work with others.
Recognizes that many things can be changed (e.g., constructions can be taken apart and then the parts can be rearranged, candles can melt when heated). Understands that the properties of a certain object will affect how that object behaves (e.g., a soccer ball will roll more predictably than a football because it is round).
Experiments with light sources and shadows and identifies how light behaves. Deepens understandings of the characteristics of sound. Begins to recognize that vibrations made by a variety of musical instruments can be changed (e.g., adjusting the strings on a guitar changes their sound and the way the strings vibrate). Understands that some materials transmit sounds better than others.
Develops a deeper understanding of how heating and cooling water can change it back and forth between liquid and solid. States that water turning into a gas is called "evaporation," but still has limited if any understanding of what this involves. Develops a deeper understanding of the characteristics of various liquids.
Continues to build knowledge of how the movement of something can be changed by pushing and pulling (e.g., plays with spinning tops). Develops a better understanding of how things can balance (e.g., recognizes the relationship between the location of a lever's fulcrum, the effort needed to move a load, and how high a load can be lifted).
Adds to personal knowledge for how each animal and plant has particular structures that serve different functions necessary for growth, survival and reproduction. Can begin to generalize from previous experiences with individual plants and animals (e.g., says, "If garlic bulbs can grow into plants, I wonder if onions can do the same thing.").
Knows more about what living things need to survive (e.g., recognizes how water and sunshine affect the health of plants). Understands that plants and animals can depend on one another for survival (e.g., polar bears eat parts of seals that they catch and arctic birds eat the rest).
Understands many of the differences between living and nonliving objects and can describe characteristics of each, but will still have some lingering confusion (e.g., isn't sure if a seed is alive or if leaves are still alive when they have changed color but are still on a tree).
Uses knowledge from prior experiences with some living things to begin generalizing about all living things. Is more aware of how much all living things rely on their habitats (e.g., ants have to live in places where their needs are met, just like squirrels and palm trees). Understand that living things have specific traits or features that help them survive, particularly within their environments (e.g., recognizes that some insects have camouflage that matches what is found in their habitat).
Learns more about the diversity and variation in plants and animals (e.g., butterflies all have the same life stages, but not all butterflies look the same or eat the same food).
Progresses in understanding of how each living thing goes through a cycle that includes birth, growth and development, procreation and death.
Develops greater knowledge of how various kinds of earth materials have different properties (e.g., some substances are more magnetic than others) and that scientists test rocks and minerals to help classify and identify them (e.g., by seeing whether a rock can be scratched by a penny or a fingernail to determine how hard it is).
Improves ability to see patterns in weather data collected over time (e.g., looks at temperature readings taken every day in October and November and recognizes that there has been a general cooling trend).
With adult support, can formally track the patterns of the moon over time (e.g., uses a notebook to record where the moon is each night and draw its shape).