Elementary Science


A basic function of human cognition is to understand why. Why does the sun trace an arc across the sky? How come pine cones fall off trees? Why do I get sweaty when I run? Curiosity about the world around us is at the very heart of human invention and creativity.

The sciences are the disciplines that enable a student to simultaneously sate and fuel that curiosity. For everything from the weather to furniture, from plants to stars, from wheels to light bulbs, students can ask what things are made of, how all their parts work together, what makes them move and how.

Our approach to science education enables students to ask and answer questions in a way that is empowering. It instills a sense of intrigue and enables students to develop understanding and then form further questions based both on the knowledge they already have and the insight they wish to gain in the future.

The core goal of science education is to allow students to tap into science, both its content and its methods, in a deep way. Elementary students can and should:

  • Learn the basic scientific knowledge that provides a framework for understanding their world. Students should master the foundational content of biology, physics, chemistry—including its most relevant aspects, such as astronomy, geology, and anatomy.
  • Engage in focused practice with evidential, causal thinking. Students begin with observation and then go on a journey of scientific discovery—from the process of asking scientific questions, to observing and gathering information, to refining questions and hypotheses, to experiment and explanation. Children come to understand that the scientific method is an organized system that helps scientists, indeed anyone, answer a question or solve a problem.

The natural sciences are tangible, major drivers of human knowledge and progress because they successfully use the former to generate the latter: they allow us uptake evidence and use it to gain causal knowledge of the world around us.

All academic content areas involve learning about a domain via evidential thinking—even literature. But science is uniquely formalized and powerful in a way that lays that basic pattern of thinking bare. In a similar way as to how math strengthens the foundations of mental functioning in all areas, so does science with a particular eye towards inference from observational evidence. The scientific method is invaluable, even to non-scientists.

Students also need to learn the content of key areas in science, the areas that offer a basic understanding of the experienced natural world. Besides the fact that they are tightly coupled—there is no real way to master the scientific method without learning a range of scientific content—there is also the fact that it’s important for everyone to feel at home in the natural world.

Our approach to science reflects the above priorities: to give students a framework of scientific understanding, and to do so in a way that fosters their internalizing of the scientific method.

Program Elements

  • Botany as a Science Gateway

    Botany is a major focus because plants are accessible and interesting to even young children in a way that is potentially deeply scientific. They are highly amenable to all types of observation: everyday exploration, microscopic observation, and dissection. All stages of their lifecycle are visible and open to investigation. They are also susceptible to limited manipulation and engineering (e.g. gardening, physical manipulation). And, on top of that, they offer an opportunity to study in a focused way the universal elements of biology—nutrition, reproduction, and growth—that are relevant to all other organisms . Relevant, too, is that plants are ubiquitous. They are something a student can be sensitized to and observe constantly in their life, resulting in tremendous outside-the-classroom transference of efficacy and curiosity.

  • Hands On Exploration
  • Scientific Method at Guidepost

Lower Elementary


The Plant
First Knowledge of Plants
Parts of the Plant
Fundamental Needs of the Plant
How Plants Grow and Reproduce
Plant Life Cycles

The Leaf
Function and Parts of the Leaf
Types of Leaves
The Leaf as a Food Factory
Plants Grow Towards the Light, Leaf Arrangement
Plants Release Oxygen and Moisture

The Root
Function and Parts of the Root
Types of Roots
Roots Take Up Water for the Plant
Roots Secure Plants, Keep Soil in Place

The Stem
Function and Parts of the Stem
Stems Hold the Leaves Up to the Light
Stems Carry Water from the Roots and Nutrients from the Leaves

The Flower
Function and Parts of the Flower
Types of Flowering Plants
How Plants Ensure Pollination
The Plant and its Reproductive Part

The Fruit
The Function and Parts of the Fruit
Types of Fruits

The Seed
The Function and Parts of the Seed
Types of Seeds Seed Dispersal

Animal Stories
First Knowledge of Animals
Who Am I? Stories Sorting Animals by Question
External Parts of Vertebrates
Adaptation Life Cycles of Animals
Beginning Animal Research

The Human Body
The Great River Story
Simple Body Systems

Earth & Space Science

Composition of the Earth
Layers of the Earth
Functions of Earth's Layers
Plate Tectonics
Mountain Formation
Rock Cycle and Formations

Sun and Earth
Relative Proportion of the Sun and Earth
Rotation of the Planets and Centrifugal Force
The Sun's Energy

Planets of the Solar System
Names, Properties and Order of Planets
Interplanetary Distance
Rotation and Orbit of the Solar System

Earth's Movements
Parts of the Day Time Zones: Sunrise and Set
Lines of Latitude and Longitude
The International Date Line

Work of Air
Air Occupies Space
Warmer Air Moves Upward
Wind is Moving Air Circulating in a Pattern
Changing Seasons and Winds Erosion

Work of Water
The River and Its Parts
River Flows from Highlands to Low Lands
Erosion The Water Cycle

Weather and Climate
Rain and Water Vapors
Local Conditions for Rain, Hail, Snow
Climates Around the World

Physical Sciences & Scientific Inquiry

Great Stories
The Story of the Universe
The Coming of Life
Timeline of Life


Mixture, Suspension, Solution
Chemical Change Separating Saturation and Crystallization

States of Matter
Properties and Classification of Solids, Liquids, Gases
Which Way Solids, Liquids, Gases Push
Attraction and Gravity

Light and Sound Waves
Sources of Light Transparent
Opaque Mirrors

Love of the World
Identifying and Describing Patterns
Asking Questions, Curiosity of How and Why It Works
Develop Models and Drawings

Scientific Process
Lab Safety
Structure of Scientific Testing Cycle
Collecting and Analyzing Data from Key Lab Experiments

Upper Elementary


Research and Timelines
Evolution of Life
Kingdoms of Life

Plant Classification
Introduction to Plant Classification
Dichotomous Key
Planting a Research Garden

Advanced Study of the Plant
Further study of Types and Specialization
Plant Reproduction and Propagation of Seeds, Roots

Animal Classification
Introduction to Animal Classification
Characteristics of Living Things

Body Functions of Vertebrates
Introduction to the Five Classes
Comparing Classes and Their Characteristics
Naming and Understanding the Purpose of Body Functions

The Human Body
Humans are Mammals
Cell Biology
Digestive System
Circulatory System
Respiratory System
Muscular System
Nervous System

Evolution and Adaptation
How Evolution Works
Species Adaptation in the Context of the Theory of Evolution
Darwin's Theory
Tree of Life and Cladograms

Biosphere and Biomes
Life at Levels from Atom to Biosphere
Types and Characteristics of Biomes
Trophic Levels and Food Chains
Interactions Between Species

Matter Cycle and Ecosystems
Elements and Cycle of Life
Matter Cycle in an Ecosystem
Energy Transfer Through Trophic Levels of an Ecosystem
Ocean Ecosystem

Connection Between Earth's Natural and Man-Made Systems

Earth & Space Science

Research and Timelines
History of the Universe
Eons of Earth’s Geologic Process

Composition of the Earth
Advanced Work on Earth's Layers, Plate Tectonics and the Rock Cycle
Continental Drift
Isostatic Balance
Hot Spots, Earthquakes, Tsunamis, Geysers
Natural Disasters

The Seasons
Unequal Day and Night
The Poles Solstices and Equinoxes
Length of the Seasons

Temperature Zones
Relating Seasons to Latitude
Temperature Zones
Variation within Temperature Zones

Global Winds
High and Low Air Pressure
Deflections and Planetary Winds
Wind Erosion
Connection Between Changing Seasons and Winds
Interactions of Heated Land/Water and Wind

Erosion by Rain, Waves, and Ice
Sedimentation Flow of Rivers
The Water Cycle
Saltwater and Freshwater
Water's Impact on Living Things

Around the World
The Ocean's Impact on Climate
Connection Between Climate and Biome
Research of Climate Zones

Solar System and Beyond
Universe, Galaxies, Stars
Comets and Meteors
Astronomers and Their Tools

Physical Sciences & Scientific Inquiry

States of Matter
Effect of Temperature
Movement of Particles
Liquids: Fluid, Viscous
Solids: Rigid, Elastic, Plastic
Measuring Mass and Weight

The Elements
Origins of Atomic Theory
Relative Properties of Elements
Periodic Table
Chemical Groups of Elements
Electron Attraction and Repulsion

Forces and Interactions
Force Motion Patterns
Relationships Between Objects and Force
Electric and Magnetic Forces
Experimentation with Simple Machines

Concept of Energy
Electrical Currents
Natural Energy Sources
Experimentation with Circuits

Love of the World
Identifying and Describing Patterns
Asking Questions, Curiosity of How and Why It Works
Developing Models with Technology

Scientific Thinking
Formation of Hypothesis
Scientific Design
Theories and Laws Optional
Science Fair

Design Thinking
Defining a Design Problem
Generating and Comparing Solutions
Project Management

Computer Science
Digital Citizenship
Events, Sprites, Loops
Functions and Conditionals
Designing for Accessibility
Programming in Spritelab