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Patriot Perspective: Science - It's elementary!

Gazing at the stars. Digging in the dirt. Catching butterflies. Splashing in puddles.

Children are scientists before they can read, add or quite possibly before they can even speak!

The Merriam Webster Dictionary defines science as “knowledge about or study of the natural world based on facts learned through experiments and observation.”

Yes, indeed, our Eagle View students enter kindergarten as full-fledged scientists. Not only that, they are budding engineers! Building forts. Constructing towers. Mixing concoctions. Assembling toys.

Following the 2009 Minnesota Academic Standards in Science & Engineering — but also with an eye on possible future national “Next Generation Science Standards” — Eagle View elementary teachers recently made concerted efforts to increase students’ learning time on this natural inclination; an inclination that could lead to a variety of life endeavors.

Adding many hands-on, inquiry-based science and engineering lessons — woven with reading, writing, math and technology — students are also able to gain communication, collaboration and critical thinking skills! Below you will find a brief sketch of our scaffolded steps to the acquisition of science and engineering skills at Eagle View, which prepare our students for even more at the middle level and beyond, which is another whole interesting article!

As kindergartners, our students are encouraged to ask questions about nature and seek answers. They collect, count and measure objects. The children observe, group and describe items. They begin to understand that some things are nature-made while others are human-made.

By watching and recording the daily weather and the four yearly seasons, they are able to describe how the weather and seasons change. They also learn the definition of “living” and understand that living things have similarities and differences. We ask them to name the outside parts of a plant, animal and a human.

Moving into first grade, students learn that scientific investigations involve asking and answering a question and comparing the answer with what scientists already know about the world. Students practice identifying the parts of things and how one part connects to and affects another.

They develop their inventive energy in engineering projects and increase their purposeful use of tools. They learn that earth materials are solid rocks and soils, water and the gases of the atmosphere. And that Earth materials provide many of the resources that humans use in many different ways. In life science, they research and explore how animals are alike and different. They learn and report about life cycles, life needs and habitats.

Our second-graders, like true engineers, design and construct to solve a need or problem. For example, they build windmills and choose materials for their designs. They analyze why some materials work better than others. They change their prototypes to work better.

In physical science, they read and study about solids, liquids, motion and gravity. As in kindergarten, weather is a part of their world, but this time they go deeper, additionally learning about weather tools and the length of our days.

A favorite second-grade science topic is experimenting with plants: knowing their needs for life, drawing their life cycles and sorting them according to the way they look, feel and by what they produce.

In third grade, all students participate in inquiry experiences that involve asking questions, conducting simple investigations, using observations and data to construct reasonable explanations and presenting the results to others.

They learn that energy comes in many forms, two of which are light and sound. In experimentation, they find that sound and light both travel and have factors that change how we observe them. They study the sun, moon and planets — always a grade level highlight!

Their work in life science includes finding ways that plants and animals can be classified. They analyze characteristics and behaviors that are essential for survival, growth and reproduction.

Fourth-graders dig deeper in inventions and engineering. They generate ideas for solving problems, like ice coolers, water filters and electromagnets. They build on what they learned in previous grades using tools to investigate energy and observe what happens when matter is cooled or heated.

The study of the water cycle is introduced here and they learn the difference between evaporation, condensation, precipitation and collection. They investigate rocks and minerals, classifying minerals based on their physical properties: streak, luster, hardness and reaction to vinegar.

A great love of fourth-graders is the electricity and magnetism unit, creating circuits and investigating insulators and conductors. For life science, our students learn about infection and the body’s defense systems against germs, including tears, saliva, skin and blood.

So in closing, we welcome our young scientists and engineers to Eagle View Elementary School and are excited to help them develop their amazing knowledge, interest and skills — one year at a time!