National Standards for Grade 4 - Science (page 3)

— National Assessment Governing Board
Updated on Mar 14, 2011

Grade 4

Understanding patterns of change at the organismal level:

  • life cycles (including growth and metamorphosis)

Understanding patterns of change at the population level:

  • concept of biotic potential, birth rates, and survival rates
  • diversity of many types of plants and animals (an important preconcept for the understanding of evolution)
  • variation within species (focus on humans, dogs, and cats)

Understanding patterns of change at the community/ecosystem level:

  • food chains (also important for the systems theme)

A more general understanding involves the notion that everything changes, sometimes quickly and sometimes slowly, and that changes may be too rapid or too slow to observe directly.


The models theme has been selected because of the importance of enabling students to distinguish the idealizations of models from the phenomena themselves. Students need to understand that a model of the human eye does not represent all aspects of human eyes as they occur in human organisms. The model is a simplification, leaving unrepresented many important variations in human eye structure, yet the simplification has utility in illuminating some features of the eye and enables new questions about the eye to be generated.

Students need to understand the limitations and simplifying assumptions that underlie the varied models used in the natural sciences. For example, beliefs that models are replicas of real objects or events can negate the critical concept of variation that many models do not take into account. Although generalized models, such as a generalized graph of growth in populations, are useful, they are not to be confused with a graph of the growth of a particular organism or population or with a graph of data from a single experiment.

Grade 4

At this level, models should be identified by students as representations of objects or events. Students can examine both conceptual and physical models in terms of how they are like and not like the object or event being represented. Examples can be models of insects, seeds, leaves, and other physical objects. These models and others in the sciences can be linked to children’s experiences with scale models of cars, dinosaurs, doll furniture, and so forth.

Example Science Content Standards

Grade 4—Earth Science

A. Solid Earth (lithosphere)

1. Composition of the Earth:

Students can classify substances such as soil, sand, or rock.

Students can identify common geographic features of landscapes.

2. Forces that alter the Earth’s surface:

Students can describe/explain basic facts about major features of the Earth’s surface and natural changes in those features (for example, volcanoes, glaciers):

Students can predict the effects of weathering (for example, rain and wind on sand piles, mud piles, rock).

Students can describe the relative difference in time it takes to erode a sand pile, a mud pile, and a rock pile (Conceptual Understanding, Patterns of Change).

Given a picture, topographical map or globe, or word description of a major Earth feature (for example, canyon, mountain range, Great Lake, cavern, island), students can identify a geologic force that contributed to producing that feature (Conceptual Understanding, Models).

3. Rocks: Their formation, characteristics, and uses:

Students can identify common rocks and minerals and can explain how we can investigate what they are made of and how they form:

Students can classify rock samples according to color, texture, or other identifying properties (Scientific Investigation, Nature of Science).

Students can explain that molten rock comes out of volcanoes, hardens, and becomes part of the landscape (Conceptual Understanding, Patterns of Change).

4. Soil: its changes and uses:

Students know some facts about the composition of soil.

Students can separate soil samples into component parts (Scientific Investigation, Nature of Science, Systems).

Students recognize that plants grow in soil and that soil provides both nutrients and support for the plant.

Students can classify and relate major solid types of soil (for example, clay, sand, loam, subsoil) to their ability to support plant growth; that is, students can identify/predict the major plant types likely to grow in those soils (Conceptual Understanding, Nature of Science).

5. Resources from the Earth used by humankind:

Students can identify Earth resources used in everyday life.

Students can identify common uses of rock in the human environment (for example, buildings, roads, walls) (Practical Reasoning, Nature of Technology).

Students can explain/identify that gasoline is processed from oil, which is pumped from the Earth (Practical Reasoning, Nature of Technology).

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