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Science and Technology/Engineering
Curriculum Framework - Spring 2001

Earth and Space Science, Grades 3-5

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Additional Ideas for Developing Investigations and Learning Experiences and Suggested Extensions to Learning in Technology/Engineering are in Appendix III.

Learning Standard Ideas For Developing Investigations And Learning Experiences Suggested Extensions To Learning In Technology/Engineering
Rocks and Their Properties
  1. Give a simple explanation of what a mineral is and some examples, e.g., quartz, mica.
  • Observe and describe the characteristics of ore minerals such as magnetite and hematite (two sources of iron).
  • Design a flowchart to demonstrate how silica from sand is used to make glass. (T/E 2.2)
  1. Identify the physical properties of minerals (hardness, color, luster, cleavage, and streak), and explain how minerals can be tested for these different physical properties.
  • Acquire a collection of minerals that includes (a) duplicates of the same mineral, somewhat different in appearance (size, shape, exact color) and (b) samples of minerals that look similar but are actually different. Examine minerals using a hand lens. Look for and record similarities and differences such as heaviness, color, texture, crystal shapes, luster, surface patterns, etc. Sort as accurately as possible. Report total number of different minerals present, and how many duplicates, if any, of each type.
  • Use simple tools to test for hardness, e.g., Moh's Scale of Hardness. (T/E 1.1)
  1. Identify the three categories of rocks (metamorphic, igneous, and sedimentary) based on how they are formed, and explain the natural and physical processes that create these rocks.
  • Examine rocks collected from the schoolyard or a field trip location, or brought in from home. Sort rocks into igneous, metamorphic, or sedimentary based on their physical properties.
  • Discuss the use of rocks in construction based on their physical properties. Test the hardness of various types of rocks used in construction. (T/E 1.1)
  1. Explain and give examples of the ways in which soil is formed (the weathering of rock by water and wind and from the decomposition of plant and animal remains).
  • Observe sand with a hand lens. Note how particles resemble minerals. Observe topsoil with a hand lens. Look for fragments of organisms. Note differences in color, texture, odor, and clumping due to organic components vs. pure sand. Mix topsoil and sand together in various proportions to represent samples of types of soils.
  • Design and construct a composting bin being sure to keep design considerations in mind, e.g., aeration, resistance to rot, etc. (T/E 1.2, 2.1-2.3)
  1. Recognize and discuss the different properties of soil, including color, texture (size of particles), the ability to retain water, and the ability to support the growth of plants.
  • Design an experiment to find out if different soil samples retain different amounts of water. Explain how the properties of the particles affect the largescale properties of the soil like water retention and speed of water flow. Discuss how a soil's water retention affects the animals and plants that live in it.
  • Use sieves of different mesh sizes to separate coarse and fine materials in a soil sample. Approximate the ratio of fine to coarse material in the sample. (T/E 1.1, 1.2)
  1. Explain how air temperature, moisture, wind speed and direction, and precipitation make up the weather in a particular place and time.
  • Use a collection of classical (not digital) weather instruments that clearly show the physical principle that makes them work. Collection includes thermometer, barometer, rain gauge, hygrometer, and anemometer. Note: A "homemade" instrument is often too inaccurate and unreliable to be a good weather teaching aid by itself. However, when used in combination with a working instrument of similar simple design, it can help students grasp both an important physical concept and its relevance to weather.
  • Using measuring tools or graph paper, sketch a scale drawing of the front view of an object used to measure weather. (T/E 2.3)
  • Design and construct a variety of simple instruments that could be used to measure weather. Discuss how their design suits their purpose. (T/E 2.1-2.4)
  • Explain how tools of technology such as a hammer, screwdriver, pliers, tape measure, screws, nails, and other mechanical fasteners can be used to make or build weather instruments. (T/E 1.1)
  1. Distinguish among the various forms of precipitation (rain, snow, sleet, and hail), making connections to the weather in a particular place and time.
  • Measure various forms of precipitation. Bring a measured sample of snow into the classroom, allow it to melt, and compare the amount of water that results with the original measurement.
  • Construct various weather station instruments (e.g., wind gauge, barometer, anemometer), record data from them, and make conclusions. (T/E 1.1, 1.2, 2.1, 2.2, 2.3)
  1. Describe how global patterns such as the jet stream and water currents influence local weather in measurable terms such as temperature, wind direction and speed, and precipitation.
  • An activity to illustrate convection (essential in transferring both heat and moisture around the world; drives both wind circulation and ocean currents.) Freeze a dark solution of food coloring and water in an ice cube tray. Float a colored ice cube on water in a transparent container. Discuss what happens, and how it is connected to convection in both liquid and gas.
  • To make a model of the jet stream, fill a jar halfway with warm water. Sprinkle some pepper into the water to represent nutrients on the ocean floor. Put a colored ice cube into each jar. Students should draw and describe their observations. (T/E 2.2)
  1. Differentiate between weather and climate.
  • Collect daily temperature and precipitation data, preferably by observation, at your school. At the same time use the internet or a newspaper to collect the same data for a nearby city and a city on the west coast of the U.S. After three months, take various averages of the daily data for the three locations. Graph the data. Discuss how the long-term daily weather averages begin to describe each climate.
  • Discuss tools used to measure everyday weather compared with tools used in determining climate. (T/E 1.2)
  • Use a thermometer and barometer to compare conditions indoors and outdoors. (T/E 2.4)
The Water Cycle
  1. Describe how water on earth cycles in different forms and in different locations, including underground and in the atmosphere.
  • Draw a diagram of the water cycle. Label evaporation, condensation, and precipitation. Explain what happens during each process.
  • Design and build a terrarium to demonstrate the water cycle. (T/E 1.2, 2.1-2.3)
  1. Give examples of how the cycling of water, both in and out of the atmosphere, has an effect on climate.
Earth's History
  1. Give examples of how the surface of the earth changes due to slow processes such as erosion and weathering, and rapid processes such as landslides, volcanic eruptions, and earthquakes.
  • To demonstrate the influence of vegetation on erosion, put soil in two shallow rectangular baking pans. Cover one pan with a layer of sod. Elevate one end of each pan. Compare and discuss the erosion caused by equal amounts of water running down each slope.
  • Identify one manmade attribute that slows the erosion process (e.g., hay bales at a construction site, silt fence protecting sand dunes) and one attribute that accelerates it (e.g., paving a parking lot, cutting trees). Relate these to natural systems. (T/E 2.1, 2.4)
The Earth in the Solar System
  1. Recognize that the earth is part of a system called the "solar system" that includes the sun (a star), planets, and many moons. The earth is the third planet from the sun in our solar system.
  • Create a proportional model of the solar system starting on the school playground and extending as far as possible. Demonstrate the size of objects (use a pea as the smallest planet, and different size balls for the rest) and the distance between them.
  1. Recognize that the earth revolves around (orbits) the sun in a year's time and that the earth rotates on its axis once approximately every 24 hours. Make connections between the rotation of the earth and day/night, and the apparent movement of the sun, moon, and stars across the sky.
  • Observe and discuss the changes in length and direction of shadows during the course of a day.
  • Design and build a sundial and use it to determine the time of day. Explore how accurate it is over time. Determine the conditions under which the sundial does and does not work. (T/E 1.1, 1.2, 2.3)
  1. Describe the changes that occur in the observable shape of the moon over the course of a month.
  • Observe the sky every night for 30 days. Record every night the shape of the moon and its relative location across the sky (record the date of the month and the time of observation each time as well).
  • Design and create a calendar that illustrates the phases of the moon. (T/E 2.2, 2.3)

Last Updated: May 1, 2001
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