4th Grade Science

This course is designed to enhance students’ curiosity about the natural world.
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Multiple Literacies In Project-Based Learning (ML-PBL)

In order to adequately support elementary students in their pursuit of scientific knowledge, teachers need an interdisciplinary approach that integrates science, literacy, and mathematics. An interdisciplinary approach aids students in developing knowledge they can use, perceiving science as important to their lives, and building confidence that they have the skills to do science.

With the goal of meeting this need, an interdisciplinary team from the Michigan State University CREATE for STEM Institute, with partners at the University of Michigan, designed and tested rigorous project-based learning units for the upper elementary grades that engage students in sense-making using language literacy and mathematical tools to develop usable science knowledge.

Multiple Literacies in Project-Based Learning (ML-PBL) resources focus on science teaching and learning to build literacy and mathematical capabilities in students, and to create access for diverse learners. ML-PBL integrates academic and social and emotional (SEL) learning goals related to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) as well as the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for Literacy and Mathematics to support student learning. These materials reflect a significant interdisciplinary approach by integrating science, literacy, and mathematics.

This work is supported by the Educurious. The materials are available as Creative Commons, open educational resources, not for commercial profit resources. To learn more about the project and the materials you can go to our team's website.

Learn More About PBL

For more information on project-based learning, please visit this section of our site.

Unit Summaries

The fourth grade course contains four interdisciplinary projects that address Next Generation Science Standards and Common Core State Standards in English Language Arts and Mathematics. A major theme that runs through the projects is a focus on energy and energy transfer.

U4.1 Dynamic Earth

Students investigate and model Earth features of local and distant places to determine what causes the land to be shaped the way it is and answer the driving question: How is this place on Earth going to change over 10, 100, 1,000, 10,000, and 1,000,000 years? They gather evidence of change in their community and look for patterns in rapid and slow processes of those changes. They model and engage in texts to explain Earth events and predict future changes to their local land and water. Students argue that the transfer of energy is involved in slow and rapid changes to the land.

Dynamic Earth Table of Contents

U4.2 Energy in Our World

Students investigate evidence of energy in natural and designed systems and build a water wheel to investigate and explain energy transfer within a system as they consider: How can we use energy outside to do everyday things in a new way? hey read about a boy who designed a windmill to transfer renewable resources to light homes, then design a prototype to explore transferring energy from natural resources to complete a new “everyday” task and gather evidence to make a claim regarding the effectiveness of their design.

Energy in Our World Table of Contents

U4.3 Waves

Students use ideas about light, sight, eye structures, and memory and instinct to explore: How important are our eyes for knowing where we are going and not getting lost? They engage in investigations, develop models, and use text and media to compare how they are able to see with how animals see. Students investigate the relationships between eye structures and functions, model how light travels, and solve an optical design problem. They define and solve a design problem that would help birds avoid windows, or newly-hatched sea turtles locate the ocean.

Waves Table of Contents

U4.4 Fire Ecology

Students investigate how fires work to better understand the challenges posed by large-scale fires as they wonder: If fire is a hazard, why do so many animals and plants depend on fire? Throughout the project, students use their understanding of ecology to engineer a solution of a prescribed burn to protect an animal or plant. They interact with fire ecologists, learn about the animals they are protecting, and model ecological systems in which fire is a feature, and organisms are fire-adapted. Given criteria and constraints, they explain why their solution is the optimal solution.

Fire Ecology Table of Contents