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National Standards for Grade 4 - Science (page 2)

— National Assessment Governing Board
Updated on Mar 14, 2011

Standards for The Nature of Science

Science

The following concepts are appropriate for assessment at the given levels:

By grade 4, students should understand that science is trying to find out what happens in the natural world. Through careful observation of objects and events, they should be able to develop explanations for their observations. Students should also understand that different people may notice different things, and therefore may explain things differently.

Technology

Students are surrounded by and interact with the manmade world as much as with the natural world. Therefore, they must develop an understanding of what shapes the design and development of the technologies that are a part of that manmade world and their daily lives. Rather than being a content area, technology is embedded within this section because of its close association with science. The following concepts are appropriate for assessment at the given levels:

By grade 4, students should understand that any design requires making tradeoffs and that advantages and disadvantages must be weighed.

Standards for Themes of Science

Themes are the "big ideas" of science that transcend the various scientific disciplines and enable students to consider problems with global implications. To understand the conceptual basis for the themes that have been selected, students must begin to develop an understanding of major ideas by the fourth grade. They should continue to develop their understanding through the 8th grade, and by the 12th grade, they should have the ability to integrate their knowledge and understanding.

Three of the themes are common to all of the documents: Models, Systems, and Patterns of Change.

Models of objects and events in nature can be used to understand complex or abstract phenomena. Models may be first attempts to identify the relevant variables to build evermore useful representations, or they may be highly refined for predictions about the actual phenomenon. Students need to understand the limitations and simplifying assumptions that underlie the many models used in the natural sciences. A model is likely to fit data well only within a limited range of circumstances and to be misleading outside of that range.

Systems are complete, predictable cycles, structures, or processes occurring in natural phenomena, but students should understand that the idea of a system is an artificial construction created by people for certain purposes, for example, to gain a better understanding of the natural world or to design an effective technology. The construct of a system entails identifying and defining its boundaries, identifying its component parts and the interrelations and interconnections among those parts, and identifying the inputs and outputs of the system.

Regardless of the topic around which the Patterns of Change theme is developed, students should be able to recognize patterns of similarity and difference, to perceive how these patterns change over time, to remember common types of patterns, and to transfer their understanding of a familiar pattern of change to a new and unfamiliar situation.

Examples of Themes by Grade Level

Systems

Students should understand that systems are artificial constructions created by people for certain purposes, such as gaining a better understanding of the natural world or designing an effective technology.

Understanding the construct of a system entails identifying and defining its boundaries, identifying its component parts, identifying the interrelations and interconnections among the component parts, and identifying the inputs and outputs of the system.

Grade 4

Systems should be approached at the level of organisms. Students should have broad and rich acquaintance with structure/function relationships as a precursor to a more thorough knowledge of organ systems by grade 8. Understanding examples of food chains and interdependencies among organisms, say, within an aquarium, are precursors to understanding complex systems.

Patterns of Change

Patterns of Change is a particularly valuable theme in the life sciences because a conceptual understanding of patterns of change can be developed in the context of several different levels in the hierarchy of biological organization. At the cellular/organismal level, the primary patterns of change are the growth and development that occur throughout the life of organisms. At the population level, the primary patterns of change are the changes in population growth over relatively short periods of time and the evolutionary changes that occur over longer periods of time. At the community/ecosystem level, the primary patterns of change are those that involve the nonliving and living components of ecosystems during the process of succession. Patterns of change may be linear, or they may be cyclical; for example, many of the patterns of change that occur within cells are related to homeostasis, in which a change leads to feedback reactions that result in a return to conditions that existed before the change. An understanding of cyclical patterns of change can also be developed in the context of ecosystems (nutrient cycles) and organisms (life cycles).

Regardless of the context in which an understanding of the Patterns of Change theme is developed, students should be able to recognize patterns of similarity and difference, to recognize how these patterns change over time, and to transfer their understanding of a familiar pattern of change to a new, unfamiliar situation.

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