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Fifth Grade Science

Science ClassIn 5th grade science at Cambridgeport, we learn science skills and content by becoming scientists. We start this process by thinking about scientific practices - what do scientists really do? Then we start actually doing these things ourselves - asking questions, developing and using models, designing experiments, collecting and analyzing data, constructing explanations, and engaging in argument from evidence. Our work is driven by authentic student questions and at the end, we are left with strong understanding and even deeper questions.

Our work emphasizes the importance of curiosity, and the keeping of a science notebook to capture observations, ideas, and questions. Much of our learning flows from our notebook reflections and rich scientific conversations. One student wrote a reflection about making a discovery through an experiment she conducted with a team. “I was thrilled. I observed some more and then grabbed my notebook. and continued at home. I felt a huge thrill from that experience - but not because of the putting soap on bottles or heating up water. The reason it was really important to me was because it was our experiment. We didn’t read any articles. No one told us any answers. We observed and figured them out ourselves. We put in the work. It’s that process of hard work and experiments in science that is most exciting, and to bring these ideas to life gives me such a feeling of joy as I can’t describe!”

This year our district curriculum topics of study include the units: Earth, Moon and Stars; Matter in Earth Systems; Living Things in Ecosystems; and Chemistry: Properties of Matter. An overarching theme of the year is systems. The science and technology practices receiving special focus are those of Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions and Engaging In Argument from Evidence. Other practices that we will emphasize in specific units are: Analyzing and Interpreting Data, Using Mathematics and Computational Thinking, Developing and Using Models, Asking Questions and Defining Problems and Planning and Carrying out Investigations. In addition to our focus on our units and practices, we also build in time for students to to read and enjoy interesting articles and highly-engaging books on science topics.

While we are working with the district’s formal curriculum resource (Bring Science Alive!), we will always be looking for ways to follow student curiosity and find ways to research their authentic questions in hands-on ways. In an end of year reflection, a boy captured the central role curiosity played in his learning. “Curiosity helps you learn more, it helps you explore more. Curiosity gives you a deeper understanding about whatever you’re learning, for when you ask questions you are intrigued to find the answers. Without curiosity, I never could’ve learned so much about photosynthesis and other topics, I wouldn’t have enjoyed learning about anything as much as I did. Scientists need to ask themselves, “How does this work? Why does it work? What is the impact of doing this? Will it change the world in a good way?”