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"High-quality elementary science education is essential for establishing a sound foundation of learning in later grades, instilling a wonder of and enthusiasm for science that lasts a lifetime, and in addressing the critical need for a well-informed citizenry and society." National Science Teachers Association (NSTA). 2018. NSTA Position Statement on Elementary School Science. Arlington, VA: NSTA.

Tolland Public Schools recognizes the importance of elementary school science education, and embraces the Next Generation Science Standards. The NGSS is organized into grade level Performance Expectations that weave Disciplinary Core Ideas (content), Science and Engineering Practices (skills), and Cross-cutting Concepts (overarching scientific principles) together, requiring teachers to facilitate students' learning of science by allowing them to "do" science. Each grade's Performance Expectations are organized into three units, each with an anchoring phenomenon that engages and excites students to learn scientific concepts and employ scientific and engineering practices in order to fully explain the phenomenon or meet a design challenge. Concepts and practices learned in elementary school set the stage for greater complexity and challenge in grades to come, and students will be prepared for the CT NGSS Science Assessment given in the spring of Grade 5. 

In grade 3, students study a range of topics as scientist detectives. Each unit presents the students with a mystery that they need solve using the concepts they explore during the unit. 
Unit 1- Monarch Disappearance- Students are presented with the significant decrease seen in monarch butterfly populations in recent years. Students explore the characteristics of different environments, weather and climate, and factors that can change environments, all while considering what organisms need to survive in their environments. The unit culminates with a project to improve the TIS memorial butterfly garden to better support butterflies overall, and monarchs in particular. 
Unit 2- Odd Motions- Students investigate and try to explain examples of unusual motions (ex. levitation), while learning about forces, gravity, electricity, magnetism, and material properties.
Unit 3- Harper's Fossil Find- Harper discovered a fossil while walking in the woods with her family. Students explore animal structures, traits, genetics, and life cycles, in order to determine the type of fossil Harper found and what may have been the story of its life. 

In grade 4, students are engaged as problem solvers, as they are asked to use their learning to design solutions to problems.
Unit 1- Changing Earth- Students are presented with
the question, "Why aren't the oldest mountain ranges in the world also the tallest?" Students study the forces involved in creating mountain ranges, as well as erosion and weathering's role in breaking them down. Students also investigate the effect of rainfall on different soil types, and apply their learning to developing an erosion management plan to protect the Appalachian Trail.
Unit 2- Waves and Erosion- Students investigate CT shoreline erosion through the use of historical imagery, and learn about waves and their ability to transfer energy and erode the coastline. Students will be asked to engineer and construct a protective barrier to minimize coastline erosion against simulated waves in the lab.
Unit 3- Biomimicry- Students investigate the many ways that human engineers have found inspiration in nature when designing solutions to human problems. Throughout the unit student investigate the senses- human, animal, and even plant- and how they have been mimicked through engineering. Ultimately students investigate bioluminescence, and are asked to design a novel use of bioluminescence to solve a problem of their choosing. 
 
In grade 5, students are presented with phenomena that require a range of science learning to fully understand.
Unit 1- Patterns of Earth, Moon, and Sun-  Students learn about a wide range of topics in astronomy including star life cycles, shooting stars, seasons, moon phases, and eclipses. Students will be asked to develop a model to explain the patterns and arrangements of sun, moon, and earth that need to be in place to cause a Super Blue Blood Moon.
Unit 2- Golden Jellies of Palau- Students build on their environmental science learning from grade 3, looking at how organisms are able to survive and thrive considering the various factors that affect ecosystems. They will develop explanations for why the Golden Jellies are only found in one lake on an island in Palau, and why they travel from one end of the lake to the other everyday. Students also consider the impacts of humans on environments, and how that may be affecting the jellies. 
Unit 3- Water World- Students travel the world with Brooke Riverton, exploring and explaining a variety of phenomena involving water. Students learn about the forces that cause geysers at Old Faithful, massive tidal variations in the Bay of Fundy, methane bubbles frozen in ice in Abraham Lake, Alberta, Canada, and the beauty of the Sea of Stars.

For further details and information about the NGSS, see the links below.
NGSS K-12 Performance Expectations- Organized by grade level and core ideas
Science and Engineering Practices Learning Progressions- details about each of the 8 practices, as well as how these important skills are expected to develop during the course of a student's K-12 education.
Cross-cutting Concept Learning Progressions- details how students develop an understanding of these key scientific principles across disciplines during the course of a student's K-12 education.


Mark Ruede
Curriculum Supervisor of Science
mruede@tolland.k12.ct.us