Science K-5

In the elementary grades, Science instruction helps build the students foundational understanding of the world in which they live in.  Their innate curiosity for learning presents a unique opportunity for teachers to excite students about science and engage their curiosity about the world around them.  The Wyckoff Science Curriculum uses the 5E’s framework in order to provide inquiry-based instruction that address the New Jersey Student Learning Standards and excites learning.  (5E’s Framework: Engagement, Exploration, Explanation, Elaboration, Evaluation)  

The New Jersey Student Learning Standards (NJSLS), which mirrors the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), deliniates a focus on the students as the constructor of meaning through immersion in the science and engineering practices.  This shift in science education, reveals a need for classroom experiences to reflect “the interconnected nature of science as it is practiced and experienced in the real world.” (NGSS Appendix A) The Wyckoff Science Curriculum adheres to this shift in science education.  Through the use of the 5 E’s Instructional Framework, the curriculum consist of hands-on classroom experiences that connect scientific principles to real-world situations. Ultimately, the goal of instruction at the K-5 level is for students to be engaged in and develop a deeper understanding of real-world science principles while demonstrating grade-appropriate proficiency in: asking questions, defining problems, developing and using models, planning and carrying out investigations, analyzing and interpreting data, constructing explanations and designing solutions, engaging in argument from evidence, evaluating resources, and communicating information.

Within and inquiry based science unit, students observe, analyze, explore, investigate, write, discuss, and reflect on the science principles and their connection to the real-world. Following the 5E’s Framework, students will engage with the new concept through short activities that promote curiosity and elicit prior knowledge; exposing prior conceptions/misconceptions and organizing student thinking.  Students then explore the new concept through hands-on real-world experiences. These investigations may incorporate technology and equipment to bring science to life. They help to develop current conceptions, science processes, and skills while guiding conceptual change through questioning and academic discourse. Thus, allowing students to use prior knowledge and new experiences to construct their own meaning of the science.  The students will then enter the explanation phase of the concept. Students are now invested in the concept and are motivated to problem solve and dive deeper into the science. This phase also provides the teacher with the opportunity to directly introduce concepts, processes, and skills, thus guiding learners towards a deeper understanding of the science concepts. This is accomplished through the use of relevant and up-to-date resources and references.  Finally, teachers challenge and extend the students’ conceptual understanding and skills. Students will elaborate on their learning in order to apply their conceptual understanding and skills to new experiences.  

Throughout the process, students are reflecting and refining their thinking.  Teachers are formatively evaluating the students; assessing their understanding, ability, growth, and science process skills.  Additionally, the evaluation phase of the 5E framework provides an opportunity for students to integrate technology, math, and literacy skills into their science practices in order to demonstrate their knowledge and science practices to new experiences.  

Science, engineering, and technology influence and permeate every aspect of modern life.  Thus the Wyckoff Science Curriculum motivates students to enjoy science and connect science content to their everyday lives. The design of the curriculum uses the 5E framework while adhering to the three dimensions to learning science to promote engaging and motivating learning experiences for students to excel in science.


Students begin to build their conceptual understand of the world around them through the exploration and questioning of phenomena. Teachers facilitate activities that bring particular phenomena into focus. These experiences and experiments allow students to begin to describe and observe in a scientific way. Children become cognizant of the importance of questioning, creating experiments, and sharing their ideas about a variety of topics.

Content will include the study of plants & animals, forces & interaction, and weather & climate. The primary focus is fostering habits of mind and using students natural curiosity. Students will plan investigations, develop questions for investigations, make observations, and state understandings.

In the plants and animals investigations, students begin to express an understanding of systems by explaining how the parts of a living thing (e.g. - a plant) work together to support life. Plant structures are introduced and will be a recurring theme throughout elementary science units. When exploring forces, students experiment with objects and how they move in space while also discovering how to work with others in a scientific way. The weather and climate investigations, students observe patterns of sunlight, wind, snow or rain, and temperature and are guided to record data and share ideas about what they are seeing. These investigations and practices set a foundation that will be built upon throughout elementary school and beyond.


Pupils continue to build an understanding of the world around them through observable phenomena. The next step is for students to start to understand the reasons behind what they observe through their investigations. They will explore the concepts of structure & function as well as cause & effect. Building on the work of kindergarten, students will deepen their understanding using their own observations as well as data gathered by peers. Student scientists will be supported to do more modeling and create more representations of their investigations for others to view. Using these data and models, they will be guided in making and supporting arguments.

Students will engage in the exploration of light and sound. The idea that light and sound waves are invisible but perceptible is presented through a variety of experiments. Student scientists will also explore how plants are equipped for survival by observing and discussing their structures. This unit moves into understanding the survival of animals and how patterns of behavior help in their survival. Communication between animals, and how that communication supports survival, will be highlighted. In another investigation, comparisons are made between the survival of plants and animals. The other unit for first graders brings a focus on the night’s sky and observing the patterns exhibited by the moon, sun and other celestial objects. This deepens their experiences of observation, data recording, and sharing with other student scientists.


The second grade science curriculum builds on the work in previous years as students continue to investigate phenomena by building models, making and recording observations, and having students share their thinking. At this point the student scientists are expected to begin to participate in the planning and designing of the investigations as well as share in deeper discussions and explanations of their findings.

The phenomena for these units focus on earth features & landforms, matter & its properties, as well as biodiversity. When investigating the earth and her landforms, student scientists focus on how landforms change. They observe the forces that cause these changes. They observe a variety of landforms and build many models that help illustrate how different forces act on the earth. Students also explore the world of matter, focusing on the properties of solids and liquids. In these investigations students are introduced to the idea that matter is made of up things too small to see individually, yet together, make up the physical world we live in. By manipulating and observing matter in investigations (designed with student input), students get an opportunity to discuss the changes they observe. In another unit students will develop an understanding of biodiversity. Using the local environment, students will be able to gain first hand knowledge and understanding of patterns in the natural world.

The experiences of second grade are marked by increased student sharing through writing and explanation with peers. Students are guided by teacher questions. As the year continues, student understanding of notebook structures and routines develops and will be an even greater focus in the coming years.


In grade three, students will build on the previous years explorations in many ways, taking on greater responsibility and deeper understanding. Their notebook work will continue and will show more detail and have greater student decision making involved as they apply their abilities from other disciplines (i.e. - math, writing).

One way students will take more responsibility is by developing questions related to each topic and inquiry. This is a step toward taking a role in the scientific processes presented in the NGSS. Students also take on a greater role in planning the investigations and are guided to do deeper note taking, sharing of ideas and interpreting data with the help of peers.

The scientific topics explored in grade three will build upon units taught in earlier grades. While investigating forces & interactions, students test how forces can be balanced or unbalanced. Observing forces in a variety of situations allows student scientists to compare, contrast and then discuss their theories based on the patterns they see. Working with the forces created by magnets is included in this investigation. Other investigations in third grade include life cycles, ecosystems, and weather. These units will offer students opportunities to look closely at environments, plants and animals, and view how they are interrelated. Interrelatedness can be viewed through discussions of cause and effect as well as student created models.


Students in grade 4 continue to build upon their knowledge of physical, Earth and life Science and apply their science knowledge to engineering design problems.  The performance expectations utilize science and engineering practices in order to explore energy and waves, use earth science investigations to design a solution to a geo-engineering problem, and deeply investigate animal and plant structures and functions.   Students will engage in scientific experiences in order to better understand science in the natural world and engage in discussions to best answer the guiding questions of each unit.  The crosscutting concepts emphasized in fourth grade are: cause and effect, patterns, energy and matter, and systems and system models and interdependence of science, engineering, and technology.   Students continue to refine their ability to: formulate their own questions; plan and conduct grade-appropriate investigations; construct explanations analyze and explain data; reflect and revise their own thinking; apply learned knowledge to new experiences.  

Introduced in kindergarten, grade 4 is the first time that students will explore energy in depth.  The goal of this unit is for students to refine and develop their concept of energy in science while recognizing and distinguishing the differences between this and the concept of energy in everyday jargon.  Students will ask questions, make observations and predictions, and construct explanations as they explore energy. Additionally, students will apply scientific ideas to design, test, and refine a device that converts energy from one form to another.  

Introduced in grade 1, grade 4 students experience waves as a way that energy is transferred from place to place.  They also explore wave properties and waves are an ideal signal carrier, thus used for communication in our everyday life.  Students observe and model simple repeating waves in order to better understand the concepts of wavelength and amplitude. This terminology will be introduced and explored as it is needed to describe and develop models of observed wave phenomena, rather than a list of learned definitions.  

Introduced in grade 2, grade 4 students engage in scientific experiences demonstrating how the Earth is constantly changing.   Students are challenged to generate design solutions for a geotechnical engineering problem. As geo-engineers, students plan and carry out investigations exploring patterns in rocks and rock formations, observing effects of weathering, and analyzing and interpreting data from maps that represent Earth’s changing landscape.  Students receive design project that involves them in science and engineering practices in order to construct explanations and design solutions for their community. At the end of the project, students are able to support an explanation that the Earth’s landscape is constantly changing using evidence from rocks, rock formations, weathering, and fossils.  Emphasis throughout the unit is on the crosscutting concepts of patterns, cause and effect, and interdependence of science, engineering, and technology.  

Introduced in grade 1, grade 4 students further investigate the structures and processes of plants and animals.  Students construct an argument that the internal and external structures of plants and animals function to support survival, growth, behavior, and reproduction.  Students develop a model to describe how specialized structures assist animals in sensing, and responding to, their environment. Students will use a model to explore how animals receive information, process the information in their brain, and then respond to the information in different ways.  Finally, students study structure and function to develop a model to describe how light reflecting from objects and entering the eye allows objects to be seen. Emphasis through the unit is on the crossing concepts of cause and effect and systems and systems models.    


Students in grade 5 develop a deeper understanding of physical, Earth and life Science, with a strong focus on water as a central piece in living organisms.  There are three major crosscutting concepts that are explored at a deeper level: systems and system models; scale, proportions, and quantities; and cause and effect.  Students engage in investigations of small and large systems within the earth and universe. They explore our own eco-system and the flow of energy and matter in it. They create system models of the biosphere and explore how it interacts with the atmosphere, lithosphere, and hydrosphere.  They use models to explore Earth’s place within the universe. Students apply scale, proportions, and quantity throughout the units, thus integrating mathematics and computational thinking to support their investigations and conclusions. Additionally, matter and energy as well as patterns are addressed in grade 5.  Students gather evidence to prove that matter is made of particles too small to be seen. Students continue to refine their ability to: formulate questions; plan and conduct investigations; construct explanations analyze and explain data; reflect and revise their own thinking; apply learned knowledge to new experiences.  

Introduced in grade 2, grade 5 students plan and conduct investigations and engage in scientific experiences in order to expand on their understanding of matter and its interactions.  The main goal for this unit is for students to develop and refine the idea of conservation of matter, including that it is made up of particles to small to be seen. Through investigations and observations, students develop distinct models for substructures of solids, liquids, and for gases, building upon their earlier experiences with matter.  Students engage in phenomena based activities in which different types of particles interact, mix, and move. They observe, analyze, and refine their thinking about matter and the “stuff” around us. Students will describe and discuss their observations about matter phenomena using grade appropriate science terms. Students will engage in a chemical engineering design challenge to demonstrate their understanding of matter and that two or more substances mixed together can make a new substance with different properties than the original two.  

Explored in grade 2 and grade 4, grade 5 students now expand on their previous knowledge of plants and animals in order to explain how energy and matter from non-living sources flows in organisms (plants, animals, decomposers) and in the ecosystem.  Students engage in science investigations that demonstrate the flow of air and water in plants. Students colect evidence and ask questions to further explore this concept. Students engage in discussions about water and how it is transported by plants.  They create models of the growth needs of plants and how they are supplied with grade-appropriate labeling. Students can explain that plants obtain matter as gasses and water fro the environment and release waste matter back into the environment. They will use this knowledge to develop a model that displays the cycle of matter and energy transfer within the ecosystem.  

Grade 5 students expand on their knowledge of Earth systems, with a focus on water and its importance to human survival.   Students engage in scientific experiences that help them develop an understanding of Earth and its major subsystems. They investigate the interactions amongst the systems (two at a time) by making observations about the flow of energy and matter.  They will research and graph the amount of water on earth and develop a model of the water cycle. Finally, students will apply their knowledge to an engineering and design project that focusses on the environment and how humans can protect the Earth’s most valuable resource (water).


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