Science, Grades 1-4

First Grade scientists have been exploring light and shadows. A shadow is created when an object blocks light from a light source, and prevents that light from hitting a surface. One way to extend your student’s learning is to look at various shadows as you go about your day. Ask questions such as: What is the light source? What is the object blocking the light? What surface is the blocking object preventing the light from hitting?

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Second grade scientists have been studying the properties of various materials. Students are learning that all materials have certain properties, and engineers choose certain materials based on their properties when designing something. One way to extend your student’s learning is to ask questions such as: What material is this made out of? What are the properties of this material that make it a good choice for what it is being used for? What materials would not be a good choice? What are the properties of that material that make it a bad choice for a specific design? For example, rain boots are made out of rubber because rubber is flexible and waterproof. Paper would be a terrible material to use for boots because it would fall apart as soon as it got wet.

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Third grade scientists have been studying how offspring inherit and learn traits from their parents. Some traits are physical, such as hair color, and these traits are usually inherited. Other traits, such as knowing how to play a particular sport or speak a particular language, are behavioral traits and behavioral traits are usually learned. Students are also learning that many traits have both physical and behavioral aspects to them. For example, the specific languages we speak are learned, but the physical ability to make a wide variety of sounds and tones that create words is inherited from our parents. Additionally, students are looking at how many traits can include a lot of variation within a single species. For example, all zebras have stripes, but there is a lot of variation in this trait as each zebra has a unique stripe pattern. Discussion questions to use when talking with your students include: What are some traits you learned from your family or friends? What are some traits you inherited from your parents physically (these are traits you are born with, although they might change over time such as hair color)?

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Fourth grade scientists have been studying the specific functions of a variety of structures of plants and animals. Students brainstormed things that all living things need. We then identified the specific structure of different parts of plants and animals, and how those structures function to allow the organism to get what it needs. For example, an elephant’s trunk is very flexible and filled with thousands of muscles. The physical structure of the trunk allows it to function in a way that helps elephants get what they need in order to survive, such as food and water. Discussion questions to enhance your student’s learning can focus on why certain animals and plants have certain structures and how those structures help them survive. For example, if you see a pigeon while walking through the city, ask questions such as what are the physical structures of a pigeon that allow it to live in NYC? Over the next few weeks we will be focusing on the structure of eyes in particular and how the structure of eyes differs between organisms in ways that allow these organisms to thrive in their specific environment. For example, owls have very large eyes so they can gather more light and see in very low light conditions. We will also learn more about how our brains interpret the light that is absorbed through our eyes. One of the ways we will be exploring how important the brain is to our sense of vision is by tricking our brains with a series of optical illusions.

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