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Identifying your learning goals for grades 3-5

At the end of the school year, there are certain conceptual understandings that we want our students to have. Achieving these learning goals lays the groundwork for more sophisticated understandings as students proceed through their learning experiences. Furthermore, developing instruction around particular learning goals can increase the effectiveness of instruction by helping instructors focus on what they really want students to understand. The Understanding Science Conceptual Framework is an effective tool for identifying a sequence of age-appropriate conceptual understandings (K-16) to guide your teaching. See the complete conceptual framework for all grade levels.

The conceptual framework is aligned with the 2012 Framework for K-12 Science Education and the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). In the concepts below, conceptual alignment is indicated by a code that follows each aligned concept. For example, P3 indicates correspondence to "Planning and carrying out investigations," the third of eight Science and Engineering Practices listed in those documents, and NOS2 indicates correspondence to the second concept outlined in NGSS's appendix on the nature of science, "Scientific knowledge is based on empirical evidence." Read more about Understanding Science and the NGSS/Framework alignment.

The Understanding Science Framework for these grade levels is divided into five strands:
What is science | How science works | The social side of science | What has science done for you lately | A scientific approach to life


What is science: concepts for 3-5
  1. Science is both a body of knowledge and the process for building that knowledge. NOS5 (See lessons)
  2. Scientists ask and address questions. P1, P3, NOS4 (See lessons)
  3. Scientists base their ideas on evidence from the natural world. P3 (See lessons)
  4. Scientific ideas may change with new evidence. NOS3 (See lessons)
  5. Answering one question often leads to other questions. P1 (See lessons)

How science works: concepts for 3-5
  1. Scientists observe, explore, discover, and communicate with one another. (See lessons)
  2. Scientific observations can be made directly with our own senses or may be made indirectly through the use of tools. P3 (See lessons)
  3. Scientists look for patterns in what they observe. P1, P4, P5, NOS2 (See lessons)
  4. Scientists don't always agree with one another. P7 (See lessons)

The social side of science: concepts for 3-5
  1. Scientists explain their ideas and evidence to one another. P7, P8 (See lessons)
  2. Scientists work together. (See lessons)
  3. The scientific community is diverse. NOS7
  4. Anyone can do science.
  5. Scientists are creative. NOS7

What has science done for you lately: concepts for 3-5
  1. People benefit from knowledge gained through science.

A scientific approach to life: concepts for 3-5
  1. Problem-solving and decision-making benefit from a scientific approach. (See lessons)


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Modifying your current lessons


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K-16 Resources


Guide to Understanding Science 101


Conceptual framework


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How Understanding Science is being used


Correcting misconceptions


Educational research


Alignment with science standards


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