Grade 4 Science

Within the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), there are three distinct and equally important dimensions to learning science. These dimensions are combined to form each standard—or performance expectation—and each dimension works with the other two to help students build a cohesive understanding of science over time.

We Are Scientists!

Unit Sketch

"We are Scientists!" is the first part of the NGSS launch. During the first weeks students learn about what scientists do and what tools, practices, and processes they use to develop explanations related to natural phenomena. They launch their Science Notebooks and use them to collect and analyze data from various observational activities and/or investigations. The focus is on observing and asking questions as well as trying one or more scientific practices to explore their scientific question.

Enduring Understandings:

Students will understand...

  • Science is a way of knowing. Its purpose is to explain the natural (and material world. Is it both a set of practices and the historical accumulation of knowledge.

  • Science involves wondering, investigating, questioning, data collecting and analyzing.

  • Scientists use a variety of tools and practices to answer questions about the world and its phenomena.

  • The scientific process is not linear. It is an ongoing process that may include one or more of these practices:

1. Asking questions

2. Developing and using models

3. Planning and carrying out investigations

4. Analyzing and interpreting data

5. Using mathematics and computational thinking

6. Constructing explanations

7. Engaging in argument from evidence

8. Obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information


Students will be able to...

  • Reflect on what science is and what scientists do

  • Participate in and reflect on a "nature of science" activity

  • Design and use a science notebook

  • Apply scientific tools and practices throughout a 5E instructional sequence

  • Reflect on "doing science"

"I Can Statements":

I can describe what science is and what scientists do.

I can describe ways in which scientists work.

I can tell the difference between an observation and an inference.

I can identify tools that a scientist uses.

I can set up and explain the purpose of a science notebook

I can participate in whole-group and small-group scientific activities that reflect the 5Es

We Are Engineers!

Unit Sketch

Students learn about what engineers do and what tools, practices, and processes they use to design solutions to problems. Students launch their Engineering & Design Notebooks and use the Design Process to participate in an Engineering Challenge.

Enduring Understandings:

Students will understand...

  • Engineering begins with a problem.

  • Engineers use a variety of tools and methods to solve problems through a design process.

  • An engineer's design process includes these steps: Define the Problem, Do Research, Develop a Possible Solution, Design and Build a Prototype of the Solution, Test, Evaluate the Design Solution.

  • Engineers test solutions multiple times before succeeding at designing a solution that solves a problem.


Students will be able to...

  • Identify what engineering is and what it isn't

  • Apply engineering tools and practices (the design process)

  • Reflect on "doing engineering" via an engineering challenge


Unit Sketch

In this unit, students explore the transfer of energy through motion, heat, light, sound, and electric current. They begin with motion, using pennies to explore the relationship between speed and energy in moving objects. They use circuits to demonstrate how stored energy is transferred into heat, light, and sound. They return to motion and watch how collisions affect the energy of objects. As a culminating engineering challenge, they design a system in which energy is converted from one form to another.

Enduring Understandings:

Students will understand...

  • Energy can be moved from place to place.

  • Energy in = energy out. Energy is conserved.

  • Energy is present in motion, heat, light, sound and electrical current.

  • Energy can be transferred from motion, heat, light, sound, or electric current to another form.

  • The faster an object is moving, the more energy it possesses.

  • When objects collide, the contact forces a transfer of energy, including friction.

  • Energy is neither produced nor used; it is constantly being converted.


Students will be able to...

  • Ask questions about a motion energy phenomenon to determine causation. (Use Question Formulation Technique)

  • Develop a model to explain causation in a motion energy phenomenon.

  • Ask questions about a collision phenomenon to determine causation. (Use Question Formulation Technique)

  • Develop a model to determine causation in a collision phenomenon.

  • Pan and carry out investigations to collect and analyze data related to patterns within a system during a motion energy phenomenon or a collision

  • Observe and gather data related to multiple forms of energy (energy) transfer.

  • Make observations to provide evidence that energy can be transferred from place to place by sound, light, heat, and electric currents

  • Use evidence to construct an explanation relating the speed of an object to the energy of that object

  • Ask questions and predict outcomes about the changes in energy that occur when objects collide.

Waves: Waves and Information

Unit Sketch

In this unit, students develop and use a model of waves to describe patterns of waves in terms of amplitude and wavelength, and that waves can cause objects to move.

Enduring Understandings:

Students will understand...

  • Similarities and differences in patterns can be used to sort, classify, communicate and analyze simple rates of change for natural phenomena and designed products.

  • Science and technology support each other.


Students will be able to...

  • Develop a model using an analogy, example, or abstract representation to describe a scientific principle or design solution.

  • Generate and compare multiple solutions to a problem based on how well they meet the criteria and constraints of the design solution.

  • Recognize patterns

Earth's Systems: Processes That Shape the Earth

Unit Sketch

In this unit, students begin by observing evidence of patterns in rock layers and fossil placement to make claims about Earth's history.

Enduring Understandings:

Students will understand...

  • Patterns in rock formations reveal Earth's changes over time.

  • Earth's rock layers tell the story of Earth.

  • Water and wind move and help to shape the Earth's land.

  • Human impact plays a role in the extent of weathering and erosion.

  • There are patterns in the location of Earth's features. Natural processes can cause Earth features.

  • Landscapes change over time.

  • Natural processes can cause natural hazards. Humans can reduce the impact of natural earth processes through innovation.


Students will be able to...

  • Observe rock layer phenomena to determine patterns in fossil placement and age

Structure, Function, and Information Processing

Unit Sketch

This unit is looking at how living organisms depend on internal and external structures to survive. Students will use observations, previous knowledge about plants and animals to support their argument that living things have internal and external structures that support their 'life'. Students will also extend their understanding of internal and external structures to the processes of plant reproduction and animal processing (ex: how animal process information via vibrations).

The second cycle of this unit sees students investigating how the properties of light affect the way internal and external parts of the eye enable animals animals to see objects. Students will also build and use models to explain how specialized structures of various animal senses work in partnership with the brain in order for organisms to process and respond to information from their environment.

Enduring Understandings:

Students will understand...

  • Internal and external structures work together to ensure an organism's survival.

  • An object can be seen when light reflected from its surface enters the eyes.

  • Different sense receptors are specialized for particular kinds of information, which may be then processed by the animal’s brain. Animals are able to use their perceptions and memories to guide their actions.

  • The eye is part of a system that allows for information transfer and processing.

  • Plants and animals have both internal and external structures that serve various functions in growth, survival, behavior, and reproduction.

  • The environment affects plant and animal structures and functions.


Students will be able to...

  • Use a model to predict and explain phenomena (ex: how plants use internal and external structures to support survival and growth, use a model of a system that describes how a lens magnifies images)

  • Ask questions to determine cause and effect relationship, how the brain receives, processes, and responds to stimuli.

  • Carry out investigations to determine external and internal structures of animals support survival and growth.

  • Construct explanations of phenomena using evidence to support their thinking.

  • Identify and describe five senses and their stimulus type (mechanical, electromagnetic radiation, chemical)

  • Describe (orally or through a diagram or model) the process of seeing both directly and indirectly (using mirrors (binoculars, glasses, periscopes, telescopes, magnifying glasses, microscopes)

  • Differentiate between processing, recall, and reflex

  • Explore reaction time and response through various experiments

  • Identify internal and external structures of various plants and animals

  • Identify unique internal and external structures and their functions

  • Provide evidence for particular organisms' structures and their functions